Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Relay for Life event at Oceola High School

Last weekend, my sister participated in a Relay for Life event at Oceola High School in Largo.  If you're not familiar with Relay for Life, it's a huge fund-raising event for The American Cancer Society that takes place every year at schools around the world.  Teams of people raise money and pledge to walk all night around the school track.

My father is a cancer survivor, having recently undergone surgery for colon cancer.

It was my first time attending a Relay event and I was blown away.  I don't know what I expected but I was amazed at the turnout.  Hundreds of people were there and everyone had something to sell (with all proceeds going to the cause).  There were lots of activities for children, plus food and sweets galore. 

Once the sun has set, the serious part of the evening takes place with everyone placing memorial candles on the track.  They use white paper bags that have been decorated in the memory of someone lost to cancer and they place a votive candle inside.  All the lights are shut down and the candles are lit.  I watched a young girl collapsed and sobbing about 20 feet from my sister's area be consoled by friends.  My sister will be the first to tell you that I can be a cynical guy at times but I was moved by the experience.  It wasn't the grief that I witnessed that affected me as much as the joy and pride I felt at seeing so many people come together in fellowship and good intentions.  It felt good to be among them.

I attended a wedding rehearsal before the event and so I had my full gear bag with me.  As soon as I saw the sunset I knew it was a great opportunity for a picture so I quickly set up a tripod and flash on the edge of the track.  My parents were walking somewhere and so I waited a few minutes, hoping they would come into view and I could get a shot.  When it started to look like I might lose the light I started looking for anything to shoot and, luckily for me, I spotted the perfect subject and she was happy to walk her bike over for a quick shot.

It was a really wonderful experience and I plan to do it again!