Robin and Ali Dando
Photo by Tom Gould
Despite an oncoming winter storm, the Oyster Bay-East Norwich community turned out in big numbers to take part in the Relay For Life Kick Off Celebration on Tuesday, Feb. 13. As people filed into the high school cafeteria, they were greeted with festive decorations, refreshments, and the song stylings of OBHS senior Nick Goldston on acoustic guitar and vocals. Team captains picked up packets from the registration committee at a table set up just inside the door. The idea behind the Relay For Life is that community members will get together in teams. Each team will then individually raise money through sponsorship and sales.
On May 18 every team will come together on the track behind the Vernon School at 7 p.m. At the beginning of the evening cancer survivors will be honored and get things started by walking a victory lap around the track. Each team will then send a member to the track to begin the walkathon which will last until sunrise the next morning. Teams will substitute members throughout the night so that the team will continuously be represented on the track all night long.
One of the most inspirational parts of the evening will be the lighting of luminarias. People will have the opportunity ahead of time to register the name of someone who has been touched by cancer. Each name will then be affixed to a bag with a candle inside and these luminarias will be lit and line the track to offer a spiritual glow through the night for the walkers.
OBHS senior and event coordinator Ali Dando greeted the crowd and introduced Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington who graciously offered the school facilities to host this community event. Cancer survivor and American Cancer Society representative, Ted Vlavianos, showed a video of Valley Stream's Relay For Life last year and explained what the program was all about.
Board of Education Vice President Robin Dando bravely spoke for the first time publicly about what it was like to be diagnosed with cancer and to be told that she had 18 months to live. Ms. Dando told of the swing of emotions as she found out soon afterwards that a new pill had been developed to treat her rare form of cancer. Thanks to that pill, she now can look forward to a long healthy life.
Ms. Dando's words showed just how vital an event like the Relay For Life is. Eighty percent of all money raised by the American Cancer Society goes directly to funding research. Recently, the news has been full of reports of wonderful advances in the treatment of many types of cancer and how the mortality rate is on the decline. People who get involved in the Relay For Life can feel good that they are fighting a winning battle. There is still a long way to go, but the trend is finally turned in the right direction.
The assembled concerned community members were treated to a musical interlude by Suzanne Sommerhalter on flute, Julianne Stiene on oboe, Bridget Bagan on French horn, and Andrew An on bassoon of the Oyster Bay High School Wind Ensemble playing a bouree composed by Colomer. After the music, the lights were turned low, Ali Dando once again took to the podium and led the audience in a sample luminaria lighting ceremony as Nick Goldston gently played Bach on the acoustic guitar. People got a taste of just how moving the luminaria ceremony will be.
Ted Vlavianos wrapped up the evening by letting everyone know that as serious a subject as this event addresses, Mr. Vlavianos stressed that Relay For Life is a celebration. Everyone who participates can expect to have a lot of fun while fighting for this important cause. The event will be filled with camaraderie and music.
Scheduled to appear are Oyster Bay's own international recording artists, The Bossa Nova Beatniks, featuring the talents of OBHS alumnus, Tim Stapleton. The Bossa Nova Beatniks are donating their time and talents in memory of their friend Dave "Dave Mac" McNamara who lost his battle with cancer this January at the age of 43. There will also be appearances by current OBHS students, the talented Imburgia family, and other surprise performers.