AMESBURY — An estimated 1,500 walkers from the New England region — and some from a galaxy far, far away — walked around the track at Landry Stadium over the course of 18 hours on Saturday and Sunday during the 11th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
“Everyone has a reason for being here,” event chairwoman Donna Eldredge said. “For some people it is private, for some it is very public. We actually had a committee member, Althea Cynewski, who relayed with us for ten years and passed away in January. So, this year, the entire committee is relaying for Althea, because, more than anything, we wish she were here.”
Currently in her tenth year as chairwoman, Eldredge said the relay, which kicked off Saturday at 2 p.m. and continued until 8 a.m. on Sunday, was striving to reach a fundraising goal of $55,000 and was on track for its lifetime goal of $900,000.
“This has grown tremendously from the first year when we may have only had 15 teams,” Eldredge said. “We’ve seen a lot of people go through their battle with cancer and now they are survivors. It’s been a wonderful experience. We meet a lot of fantastic people.”
Eldredge, who lost her mother to cancer more than 10 years ago, was joined by her five children on the track, along with the 28 other teams as each hour, a new lap — each with a different theme — began. While musical acts played in the middle of the stadium, a silent auction and a raffle were held.
The centerpiece of the evening was the lighting of hundreds of paper lantern luminarias, each with the name of either a cancer victim of survivor written on them.
“That is really our signature event,” Eldredge said. “It’s very moving and emotional, and kind of reminds us of why we’re here.”