The Luminaria ceremony is held to honor and celebrate loved ones who have been affected by cancer.

By Gwen Rollings

Heart disease may be the leading cause of death, but cancer is second. One out of three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. If you talk with anyone involved in the Relay for Life of SouthShore, you’ll hear that heart is taking center stage once again, but this time for another reason…a great reason.

If you ask anyone involved in the Relay for Life SouthShore, you’ll hear why they put so much heart into the months leading up to the Relay, which will take place at Lennard High School on March 27-28 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It is a labor of love.

According to Megan Pichette, a teacher at East Bay High School and the event lead for Relay for Life of SouthShore, “We love Relay of SouthShore so much. We may not be the biggest Relay, but there is definitely a special vibe and spirit every year. I am always so completely inspirited by the students coming out and participating, especially by their reactions to and respect given to the Luminaria ceremony.”

Martial Arts Coach Eric C. Stevens wrote an article titled “The True Meaning of Having Heart.” In it, he said, “The common thread among all traditions and beliefs is that the heart is associated with love. Heart transforms our lives, knowing that we are fighting for what we love.”

Perhaps that is why there is so much love and emotion obvious when the Luminaria ceremonies take place all across the world. It is one of the key moments of a Relay for Life.

One survivor said it this way, “The Luminaria ceremony is about lighting the way to HOPE. The lights go out all over the field and track to symbolize how cancer takes you to the darkest time in your life. Normally, lit luminaries are placed around the track to represent lighting the way to a CURE and HOPE. The luminarias have messages written on them of hope, in memory of or to celebrate a survivor. At the end of the Luminaria lap, the lights come back on to show there is light to give HOPE for a CURE.”

Luminarias can be purchased for a small amount and included in the ceremony for someone you love.

Teams are the heartbeat and the sponsors, clubs and schools are the lifeblood of a Relay. The SouthShore Relay teams are contributing an on-site fundraiser, including Sno-Cones, Luminarias, Cupcake Decorating, Taos, Waffle Bar, Chick-fil-A, Lap Counters and Egg Rolls and other events and activities.

Even though, as Pichette said, Relay for Life of SouthShore might not be the biggest, they have heart. Remember what a young, small boy named David once did with a slingshot to defeat a giant? Form a team, walk a lap, donate and come out and support SouthShore to fight this giant disease named cancer. For more information, contact tammy.schoonover@cancer.org.