©01 The Media Desk http://themediadesk.com
First. Whoever invited a Tropical Storm to the 2001 Relay for Life in the Dover, Delaware area...
Don't do us any favors next year. OK?
Oh yeah, in addition to several hundred walkers on over forty teams, at least half again as many support staff, security, dancers, magicians, radio station guys, and so on, Allison showed up to add her own flavor to the event.
Friday afternoon the Desk arrived to look for site L-11 to set up camp for the RAVEN's Relay crew. Finding site L-11 wasn't difficult at all, except it had somebody else's name on it. Paperwork was checked and a decision made. The other team was supposed to be in A-11, the guy with the signs may have been slightly confused. L-11, outlined in orange paint on the ground, was ours. There was a stiff breeze blowing as the Desk and the Girls set up the big tent and dining fly that would be the RAVEN's HQ for the event.
Oh, by the way. The RAVEN is the Dover 'ship' of the IFT, the International Federation of Trekkers. Besides giving each other Vulcan salutes and talking about warp drive, they also participate in several charity events. The Relay is one of them.
The Plan was to have an informational table and First Aid Station set up as a Rest Area complete with highway style EXIT sign. But the wind blew the information side of that away from the green flag and later the rain washed the rest of it away. However the RAVEN's free ice water was popular, as it always is, and there was some calls from walkers for painkillers and coffee, so it wasn't a total loss.
The RAVEN's event co-captain showed up and leant a hand. Literally- A hand. She's got a bad wrist, but that barely slowed her down.
The Cancer Society has these things scripted so tightly that if something gets sideways it throws the whole event off track for hours. And this being Delaware, Nothing starts on time to begin with.
The Desk has noticed this and kept track of it for years. If you want something to start, say at noon, tell everybody it's going to begin at eleven sharp. They'll get there about eleven thirty, so you can begin on time.
The new Miss Delaware was there, Miss Erin Cooper. And the Desk was informed that she was not wearing a 'hat' it was a 'crown' or 'Tiara' depending on who was explaining it. In case you were wondering, the consensus is that Miss Cooper, a well-spoken blue-eyed blond with a fine sense of humor, is much better looking than the Desk.
Now that that is cleared up...
The Cancer Society Relay Staff got the Survivors together for a dinner and some speechifying, everybody else made sure they had their walking shoes and sufficient caffeine for the night.
The start of the walk was close to on time, but the 'opening remarks' ran long.
They ran way long.
The 'Opening Remarks' ran absurdly long.
Some of the Survivors were still going through therapy and were sensitive to the heat and sun. Others had just recently finished their treatment. Others were done with it but not yet back to usual, if you ever fully recover that is.
To expect them to stand in the sun on a track for half an hour or more of jack-jawing, no matter how motivating and relevant to the cause, is ridiculous.
If there is one gripe the Desk has with the Relay Staff, besides the loud-mouthed nut that highjacked the DJ booth in the middle of the night, the opening speeches is it.
Next time, let the Survivors sit in the grandstands for the pep talk, give them chairs, have a blinking light on the microphone stand so if some well meaning windbag gets to waxing sentimental over it all, somebody can cue him to shut up.
Yes all the speakers had something meaningful to say, that's not the point. But when Survivors have to leave the lineup and go sit down because the speakers think they are that drumming bunny, they just keep going and going....
Eventually they got done talking and the Relay began. The staff read the names of the survivors, and some people wiped away a tear or three as they circled the track.
No they are not done talking. Now there is some talk about caregivers. A few more Survivors leave. They can't take it. Either there was too much emotion, or too much standing around, maybe both.
The Caregiver lap was under way accompanied by a lady reading a poem and singing. Then the Relay itself got going with some more talk. The Introduction of the Teams.
Forty-Two teams paraded around the track, then some of them stayed on the track to keep walking for the main part of the Relay.
The central idea was that somebody from each team was supposed to be on the track walking for the whole fifteen hours. You walk for an hour, I'll relieve you, somebody else will come in behind me, then we'll get a fresh body out there for awhile. And to some degree, it worked that way. There were runners, and joggers, and people pushing strollers. Yes, runners and joggers. There were people on the track most of the night actually running laps. One lady seemed to think she had to do the whole fifteen hours power-walking around the track. The RAVEN didn't keep somebody out there for the whole time, but we did pretty good that way.
The Desk made the rounds and checked out the other teams. The Air Force Base had a couple of teams. An insurance company or two were there. The Hospital had teams, as did several area schools. Some were groups from service organizations, like the RAVEN's own team, others were company teams with well put together themes and a schedule of walkers. Some were huge outfits with a circus-sized tent and a dormitory of sleeping quarters, others seemed to be a family or two out for more personal reasons. The majority were more or less like the RAVEN's, a handful up to about a dozen folk, a loose organization of walkers along the lines of "who's walking?" "I dunno." "I'll go out for awhile."
Some campsites were intricate affairs with props and tour guides. Others were actual campsites more geared to comfort and convenience than being a commercial for their sponsor or committee.
A few abandoned their site altogether and waited out the rain in RV's in the parking lot, leaving only a couple of chairs to hold their place.
The Desk crashed for a couple of hours before midnight while some others watched the Relay and made a lap or two as the mood suited.
But sleep was impossible as somebody that loved the sound of their own voice over the PA system took over the DJ booth and jabbered endlessly about nothing. He turned the music he played up until the ground shook then decided that he must talk over it. The Desk gave up trying to rest and got back up.
A few minutes later coming back from the row of Johnny-On-The-Spot's the Desk ran into several people leaving.
"Calling it off?" The Desk asked them.
"I can't take that noise." The gentleman responded.
"That's terrible. People don't want to hear that." The lady added nodding toward the distant thunder from the speakers.
Fortunately the audio assault ended as suddenly as it began about an hour later.
Assorted contests happened throughout the night. Various dances, costumes, spirit awards, raffles and drawings, and whatever else they could dream up to enliven the night.
The support crew of the Relay were excellent. They had arranged with Polytech High School for the Walkers to be able to use the school's locker rooms (a hot shower at three in the morning does wonders for your outlook on life). The stadium snack bar was open all night, there was people to empty trash cans, and security directing traffic in the parking lot. The music never stopped, although by early in the morning they were starting to play entire CD's instead of individual songs.
Just after Midnight the Desk requested Elton John's 'Philadelphia Freedom' to console whatever 76'er fans were out there. The request was made by finding the song on one of their CDs, then handing it to the DJ who said he was 'just froggy enough to play it'. He was, and he got some reaction from the walkers.
The attention was always on the track. The people actually walking for the cause.
For the most part the money had already been raised, some had taken pledges for miles or hours walked or whatever, but by and large, the donations were turned in at registration. So actually getting out there and walking was academic. But everybody from little kids to senior citizens and the Desk's day job Bossman were out there hoofing it.
"Alright! Everybody on the Track. Turn around and walk the other way!" The DJ would call out to break the boredom.
The Desk took a lap against the traffic to see who was walking.
It was an assortment. The majority were in the teenage to mid twenties group. But there was a good assortment of other ages represented. The younger folk were primarily with one or two rather noisy outfits, one of them called themselves BYOC. Whatever that stands for. Nobody the Desk asked knew. And when it shouted the question to the group as they walked by chanting, the answer was:
"B! Y!" dramatic pause "O! !C!!"
The ones the Desk didn't understand were the runners. Jogging, OK, yeah. But actual running? Bat-out-of-Sheol around the track full speed? They weren't breaking the four-minute mile, but they were cutting it way down from the twenty minute quarter-mile the Desk did.
The Desk timed one of them. The guy did four laps in about six minutes. A mile in six minutes dodging walkers that forgot the outside lane was for runners, and the occasional child wandering around the track ain't bad.
And it rained.
While it had sprinkled now and then since Friday afternoon. It never amounted to anything. It started getting serious just after midnight. A brief light shower for a few minutes. Then another one. An hour or so later the brief shower was a little heavier. The next one lasted a little longer.
Allison was here and no mistake.
Finally as the sky got lighter toward five AM the rain was heavier and more often. You could see the bands of clouds from the tropical system blowing in off the ocean. The wind would kick up to gale force and the occasional tent would become a kite.
But the Relay continued. Some walkers seemed to only go out when it was raining. Others would run for shelter when the drops got heavy.
The DJ was still going. Groggy and punchy, his sense of humor was thin, but he was hanging in there. The Relay staff was still doing their thing. Some of the campsites were now vacant, and the number of people in the remaining ones was down to skeleton crews.
The final push with raffles and other contests was made. The RAVEN gave away a basket of fancy coffee. Other groups had drawings for rides in race cars or handmade quilts.
The RAVEN contributed three hundred nineteen dollars to the cause. The final cash total was over seventy-thousand dollars raised. A Relay just across the line in Maryland got close to the Hundred Thousand Dollar mark. And there were Relay's all over the place.
The Message of the Relay was: We Are Winning. They pointed to some of the Survivors that had beaten their cancer over twenty years ago and were still here to talk about it.
But during the Luminaries service late Friday Evening. The entire track was ringed in lighted candles, the visitor grandstand had HOPE spelled out in lights. Each candle lit in memory of someone who didn't beat the disease. Several had multiple names. One bag had a husband on one side, his wife on the other, with a grandchild's drawing of a dog and a rainbow beneath the names. Two different cancers, some twenty years apart. Two more names on the list of reasons research needs to continue.
The news of the day. A drug made from tree bark used in conjunction with radiation is very effective against solid mass tumors. Is it a cure? Is it The Cure? More research. More testing. More money.
The dollars thrown at cancer is astounding. Some conspiracy theorists say that a cure has been found, years ago. It is being suppressed by the medical industry because of the money that comes in for research and development. True, it is a huge industry, cancer wards keep some hospitals afloat, the prices on some of the drugs gives patients sticker shock that may be worse than the disease. The fight keeps groups like the Cancer Society and the Lung Association going. It's the wheels under the Anti-Smoking bandwagon.
Is there a conspiracy to keep that mysterious cure off the market?
Yeah. And Elvis Impersonating Aliens gave the government a one hundred mile per gallon carburetor and they suppressed it too.
There are some secrets too big to keep. This is one of them.
There are some secrets that are immoral to keep.
As the Relay wound down the rain moved in with a vengeance. The wind got heavy and whipped the rain around as the tents and equipment were packed away.
The Last Lap was to honor those that had put in the work to make the event a success, and there was a good crowd on the track. But now most of those that remained were simply interested in getting out of sight of the cat on the Polytech water tower.
As they paraded into the gym an exodus of trucks and vans paraded out of the stadium. The 2001 Relay would soon be history. And the planning for 2002 will begin in earnest.
All over the area those that had been there for the duration, or at least most of it, collapsed. A good effort for a good cause.
We'll do it again next year. Maybe not all of us. Some new Relayers will come in, others will drop out. But we'll do it again. There will be many repeat teams, and a few new ones. And one or two of this year's won't be there. But we'll do it again. Maybe we'll raise more money, we might even not reach this year's total. But we'll do it again. There will be raffles, and drawings, and bake sales, and a first aid tent for sore feet. But we'll do it again. We'll have a contest or two and give away a prize to the best costume. And we'll have fun, even if it rains, for the cause.
And. We'll do it. Again.
Until we don't need to.
In memory of those the Desk has lost to Cancer:
Especially: James Lewis. Edwin and Joan Wahlfeldt.
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
John 11 : 23 - 26
To the American Cancer Society website.
To the Relay for Life website.