Dozens of tents lined the park’s track and field to celebrate and remember cancer survivors and caregivers at the overnight event. It featured food, music, games and fundraising for cancer research and treatment.
“You look around and you’re with all these other people that understand,” said Erin Kenny, who has attended the event since 2011. “You're coming together and making a difference with them.”
The ceremony opened with survivors walking the first lap around the track, followed by caregivers who helped those affected by cancer. Numerous relay teams followed.
The highlight of the event was the Luminaria Ceremony, which featured a silent lap around the track. Dozens of bags were illuminated to honor those who passed away from cancer, survivors and people still fighting the disease.
“Even though it’s just a few minutes, that moment is the reason I continue to come back and stay all night,” Kenny said. “It's a beautiful experience.”
“It's getting bigger and bigger each year, there are more and more survivors,” added Arlene DeSena, a member of the committee on the survivors’ tent and a breast cancer survivor herself.
DeSena, who has attended the event for the past 10 years with her two sons, said her experience with breast cancer was “dehumanizing.”
“It takes your hair, your eyelashes, your makeup as a woman,” she said. “It was horrible.”
She first became involved through her relay team Helping Hands. Her son Phil DeSena eventually became captain and the team evolved into Team Laugh in 2011.
His eight-member team, including his brother, has raised $35,000 over the past six years. DeSena said that he felt overwhelmed by the level of commitment to support his family's team.
“It's really changed our lives,” he said. “So I hope what we do here impacts someone else’s life in a positive way.”
His mother said she hopes the event will continue to grow.
“We need young blood and young teams,” she said.