If enthusiasm offers any measuring stick, the Johnston/North Providence Relay for Life may rewrite the record book during the next six months leading up to the May 31 to June 1 event that will be held at Memorial Park.
The local arm of the American Cancer Society (ACS) held what 2013 Chairperson Crystal Hoffman called “more of an old-fashioned pep rally to get people excited about this year’s Relay for Life.” The community room inside the North Providence Public Library on Mineral Spring Avenue was overflowing with people.
“The people in the community have far exceeded our expectations thus far,” Hoffman said while greeting people of all ages to the two-hour Relay for Life Kick Off.
Hoffman and co-chair Amy Songen were admittedly overjoyed with the wall-to-wall turnout. The event was a potluck dinner for participants.
“Although this was for information and awareness instead of fundraising, we did raise some money,” Hoffman said. “People are so excited and I just know this is going to be the best year ever. I’m so excited that my heart’s beating faster than usual.”
Hoffman noted that the two previous Relay for Life events, which featured a walk in the park during an 18-hour stretch and put the spotlight on cancer survivors, family and friends, took in $40,000 each as the result of various team and individual fundraisers.
This time around, the Johnston/North Providence Relay for Life organizing committee has set a goal of $75,000.
“I think we can do it,” Hoffman said. “I know the total is high, but look around this room. Everyone is excited about the new Relay for Life. I think this is going to be a great year for the Relay. We are all confident we can meet our goals.”
So far, only six teams have signed up, but Hoffman is hoping to have 15 or more teams when all is said and done. Interested teams or individual walkers are asked to contact Hoffman or Gretta Jacobs, the ACS’s new community development representative. Hoffman’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org and Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com.
Among the returning faces are veteran Relay for Life team captains Terry Novak and Lori Boffi, who also hope for a banner year. Novak, who doubles as an English professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, is the captain of Team Raging through the Ages. Her team has been the top team fundraiser in each of the past two years.
Boffi, meanwhile, owns Card$mart at 1507 Atwood Avenue in Johnston and is captain of Team One Step at a Time. Boffi’s bunch has been the second highest team fundraiser in recent years.
Those teams and their captains that have signed up thus far are: Team Blue Jays, Kendra Gabaree; Pink Glove, Kimberly Griffin; Amy’s Angels, Amy Songen; and Bad Bettys, Gretta Jacobs.
Another important committee member is Robin DeCosta, a valuable member of Team Raging through the Ages. Jen Kelly will also be part of the all-important planning committee.
While Saturday’s kickoff included food and raffles and activities for children, some people actually signed up for the Relay for Life and paid their $5 registration fee.
North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi made a special visit to the event, and Christina Holmes of North Kingstown provided some beautiful music.
The nearly 60-plus people who jammed into the community room also heard a moving speech from Richard Gabaree, a 66-year-old North Providence resident who has waged a courageous 26-year battle with cancer.
“I’ve been going to the doctor every six months for the last 25 years,” Gabaree said. “They won’t release me; I was first given a 15 percent of surviving and I’ve had four operations. I was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma that’s listed as one of the cancers that’s related to Agent Orange.”
Gabaree told an attentive audience he was in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, during the Tet Offensive and that spraying there is said to be a cause of Agent Orange.