Relay for Life is an event that aims to celebrate and honor people in their battle with cancer, whether they are survivors, caregivers or have lost the battle. Money raised goes to the American Cancer Society for research, education, advocacy and service.
This year, Leandra Navetta participated in her sixth Relay for Life. Navetta attended her first Relay for Life through her work with the YMCA, but soon found that it helped her deal with her life as a cancer survivor.
When Navetta was three years old, she traveled to America from Brazil with her mother. She battled leukemia as a child, and being a cancer survivor has always been a part of her identity.
“I have never really spoken about being a cancer survivor before and being here made me embrace it. I found my voice and I found myself,” Navetta said. “It was a huge deal for me because I never told my story to anyone so when I did I immediately felt so much love and so much support. I felt like I was home.”
What started as an urge to participate in a community event turned into a passion for Navetta.
This year, she served as entertainment chairperson, an important job in Relay for Life. Since the event goes overnight, it is crucial that the relayers are kept awake with activities, games and performances that give the event the fun but honorable environment it is known for.
For sisters Maryann Andriach and Jeanne Kruithoff, Relay for Life of Middle Village is an event they participate in together to make a difference in the lives of their friends, as well as the community.
Kruithoff first became involved with the event to support a friend battling cancer. Since the start of Relay for Life of Middle Village 13 years ago, Kruithoff has served many roles from team member to chairman. This year, she was the co-chairman of the event.
“We all know why we are doing this. We are all in it together,” Kruithoff said.
For many, a favorite moment is the Luminaria Ceremony, when candles are light to honor those who are battling cancer, survivors and those who have passed away.
“It is just so moving and so touching seeing the candles and the lights. They are here with us, the memory and the honor,” Kruithoff said. “Nobody is forgotten, every name is read.”
This year, due to the rain, winds and thunder, the Luminaria Ceremony was postponed to July 13 at 9 p.m. It will be held at Maspeth Federal Savings Bank at Grand Avenue and 69th Street.
Marlene Medina, a community manager at the American Cancer Society who specializes in Relay for Life, hopes that the event can help everyone learn more about the disease.
According to Medina, as a child she watched her mother battle ovarian cancer, but she never understood much about what was happening.
“We can definitely educate not only young adults and adults, but also children,” she said. “We can educate them about how to manage their feelings during this time. We want to raise awareness and let people know that the American Cancer Society is here for you no matter what you are going through.”
Relay for Life of Middle Village is raising money until August 30 with hopes of reaching its goal of $200,000.