When we left you last week, we were on the verge of participating in our first Relay For Life. Friday after work, we stopped by the relay venue to get an idea where our team’s site was and where we’d park our Scotty for the weekend. The officers of the Speedway Police Department did a fine job of leaving us a nice spot between the pop-up awnings and tent to park for the weekend. We returned a couple of hours later to set up shop. There was one other participant there for the evening who was providing security for the venue, since most of the 35+ teams had a tent and/or awnings set up, but no one else was camped out Friday night.
With nothing much to do after getting our site set up, we decided to head down to Sam’s Club to pick up a memory foam mattress topper for the Scotty, since we had a little extra in our camping budget and have meant to get one for a while. Wow, what a difference that 2 1/2″ of foam did for my sleep! Look for a “Gadget Review” on that later. After a late night walk over to Speedway’s Main Street for some frozen yogurt at Yogulatte, we called it a night, as we knew we’d need a lot of rest prior to the Relay.
At 6am, we were up & ready to go. Speedway officer Rod Ferguson was the first to show up with some ice for the massive coolers holding a massive amount of liquids for our team and for those participants wishing to buy for a small donation to the Relay. Officer Ferguson was quite impressed with the Scotty and after giving him the grand tour, he was more than happy to oblige with a small request I had for a photo…
The Relay began shortly after 10am Saturday and that’s when the fun began. I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up with my wife to do this, but I’m sure glad I did. It had a festival atmosphere to it, and with Speedway being a town of just over 12,000 residents, it wasn’t often you didn’t see someone you knew. The Speedway PD team poked a little fun at themselves with the name of their tent where we served up some milk and legendary Long’s donuts in the morning and some grillable meats in the afternoon.
Every hour there was something going on while the hundreds of walkers were mobile. Our group was busy selling food & drink, as well as “arresting” unsuspecting participants who were issued “warrants” for $5 by friends & family members. As each criminal was found, they were brought back to our site in handcuffs by one of Speedway’s finest and thrown in the Speedway Town Jail where they stayed until $5 bail was posted. It was a HUGE hit and our officers couldn’t keep up with the number of warrants issued.
As sunlight diminished for the day, the number of walkers didn’t. It created a rush of diners looking for more hotdogs, burgers, and brats we had on the grill. Luminarias were lit in memory of loved ones who either lost their fight to cancer or were fighting it. The hundreds of luminarias along the 2 tenths of a mile course had the names of those loved ones on them, as well as personal messages to them. There were a lot of emotional moments Saturday night, from the lap the cancer survivors took together to the solemn end of the Luminaria Ceremony where everyone shut down their campsite lights and watched as hundreds walked along the path of luminarias as a bagpipe player played “Amazing Grace”.
I managed to stay up the whole night. Everyone on our team either went home for a few hours of sleep, or in my wife’s case, found slumber in the Scotty. I found I needed a shot of 5 Hour Energy around 2:30am to keep me awake, which was my goal, in honor of those who are in a fight for their lives who know that cancer never sleeps. I ended up walking nearly 2 hours off & on throughout the night (a little less than 4 miles), and decided to call it quits just before sunrise.
We started packing up shortly after 8am and after the closing ceremonies at 9am, we were on our way for the long one mile trek back home. The Speedway Relay For Life (at last count) brought in over $65,000, which was a record for this event. I can’t tell you what a fulfilling experience it was to participate in the Relay. As my father has battled prostate and bladder cancer for the past 10 years (doing well right now!), this event was personal for me, as it was for my wife, whose mother has battled breast cancer over the years. Any of you reading this who’ve participated in a Relay For Life know firsthand what an emotional event it is. And if you’ve never participated, I highly encourage you to check out the Relay For Life website and join a team or start one of your own in your area. You’ll walk away from it with a whole new perspective on life.