Relay for Life Survivors' Brunch

Debbie Bordeau, left, this year’s Relay for Life Survivor Chair and Anastasia Billings, Oakley Relay Event chair, welcomed guests to the Relay for Life Survivors Brunch at Oakley’s Brownstone Gardens. 

Photo by Corey Hunt

Dozens of Relay For Life supporters gathered at Oakley’s scenic Brownstone Gardens earlier this month to pay tribute and celebrate the cancer survivors they Relay for year after year.

The Oakley Relay For Life Survivors’ Brunch, a fundraiser for Oakley’s upcoming Relay For Life – a community fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, was held on April 5 and featured pancakes, live music performed by local resident Ron Borland and a gentle splashing of water fountains beneath thickets of trees and shrubbery – an atmosphere that seemed to bring out the best in those who attended.

“This event is to raise awareness and celebrate the survivors here in this area and to raise awareness for the fight against cancer,” said Deborah Bordeau, this year’s Relay For Life Survivor Chair. “Also, it’s a chance for everyone to come together as a community and share stories, share this beautiful venue, listen to some music and enjoy each other’s company.” 

Diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, Bordeau says that taking part in Relay gives her a powerful new lease on life even though she was an active supporter before her illness. “I was always a true supporter of Relay, but to walk in that survivor lap and to do it as a cancer survivor, knowing the fact that I was even able to walk at all, is in part due to the American Cancer Society and the research and the funding they have given over the years. It makes you feel truly grateful.” 

Oakley Relay Event Chair Anastasia Billings rallied the crowd for another successful Relay event. This year’s fundraiser is scheduled for May 17 at Freedom High School.

“Last year, we raised $89,000, and this year our goal is $100,000,” Billings said. “We’re at $25,000 right now. This means we’re a quarter of the way to our goal, and that is amazing for this point.” 

During her address to the crowd, she also sought to clear up some confusion about the purpose of Relay: “A lot of people have this presumption … they think it’s a race, which it is not. It’s a 24-hour event; people come out; they set up their campsites. There’s lots of different activities.” 

Relay For Life is open to families, businesses and schools, who form teams and are tasked with the goal of trying to keep at least one person walking on the track at all times during the main event in an effort to demonstrate that the fight for cancer never rests. However, the event is open to everyone even if they aren’t a member of a team or have done any fundraiser. The event includes live music, food, activities, a kids zone and a host of mini fundraisers that teams host in order to raise as much as they can for the cause.

For now, momentum is building, and prospective teams still have time to register and prepare. 

“It’s very important for everyone to get involved because we have to finish the fight against cancer,” said Kim Ambrosino, a 12-year uterine cancer survivor and a teacher at Vintage Parkway Elementary School. “Having events like the Survivor Brunch we are at today is important because it recognizes everyone who has gone through the journey of being diagnosed with cancer.”

The entertainer for the morning, Ron Borland, agreed: “Almost everybody knows somebody who has been touched by cancer in one way or another. I’m glad to see so many people here.”

Oakley’s 2014 Relay for Life will be held at Freedom High School on Saturday, May 17 at 9 a.m. and will continue until Sunday the following morning. For more information, e-mail or visit