In the back room of her popular country store, Relay co-chair Lynn Gursky is wearing a Relay T-shirt and taking last-minute phone registrations as the final details of the 24-hour Brentwood fundraiser take shape.
“We’re getting there,” laughed Gursky. “The last few days are always a little crazy, but it’ll come together. It always does.”
Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s primary fundraiser, held each year in towns and communities the world over. The 24-hour event is divided into three themes: Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back.
“We start with the celebration portion of the event – the celebration of cancer survivors who are having another birthday,” said Gursky. “And then we go on to Fight Back, and that’s really why we’re all there: to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle. And finally at dusk we Remember. We have a luminaria ceremony where everyone can reflect and remember those who have lost loved ones and those who are still battling cancer. It’s a very moving ceremony.”
For Gursky – a longtime Relay supporter – the remembrance portion of Relay has become especially poignant. In 2009 she lost her husband Roy to cancer, and subsequent Relays are now even more important to her family.
“The first few Relays were a little difficult because of the family tie,” said Gursky. “But cancer does that; it changes lives and I have so many friends still in the fight … the community and local businesses have been so generous in their support. There really is a Relay family and there are people I have met and become close friends with that I never would have met without this event.”
And each year the two families come together for a weekend of solidarity, support and hope. For Gursky, it’s the latter that keeps her inspired. “Hope is the gift that everyone who participates will receive,” she said. “In our personal situation, I know that my husband had hope, and I believe it’s part of the reason he kept going until he absolutely couldn’t anymore. He really believed he would beat it.”
Team Gursky hits the track at Liberty High School this weekend to celebrate, remember and fight back for those whose lives have been touched in some way by cancer. It’s Gursky’s wish that everyone who takes part will benefit as she has from the camaraderie and support.
“For me,” said Gursky, “participating in this event gives me a sense that I’m doing something so that other families won’t have to go through the loss and suffering that have affected so many in our community and my family personally. It really is a wonderful event.”