Sunday, April 19, 2015

Committee gears up for Sebago Lakes Region Relay for Life - By Elizabeth Richards

The Sebago Lakes Region Relay for Life has a new location, and a new format this year, but much remains the same. Walkers will still take to the track to raise money to fight cancer. 
A committee is hard at work getting the word out to the community about the upcoming Sebago Lakes Region Relay, to be held on June 27, 2015. The event will be held this year at Gray/New Gloucester High School. And instead of overnight, this relay will follow a new model called “relay refresh,” said Hannah-Bea Gregoire, co-chair of the committee. The relay will begin at noon and wrap up at midnight, rather than the more traditional 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. overnight model. 

The addition of the “relay refresh” model gives the American Cancer Society (ACS) more options for relay events, said Lisa Dunham, a community manager for the ACS. This new model came about, said Dunham, after feedback that the overnights were getting too difficult for people to manage. “The feedback was that people were ready for a change,” she said. In this 30th anniversary year of Relay for Life, the ACS decided to try the model nationwide.

The time change may also make it easier for teams to follow through with the intent that at least one member of a team is walking at all times. Kristen Peterson, co-captain of the Eternal Flame of Hope team, said that their team has always taken that requirement seriously, but it was disappointing to see how many teams left during an overnight event.

Dunham agreed, saying that she has seen some events that began with 25 teams end up with only ten teams present in the morning. Although the intent is that someone from each team will be walking throughout the event, there is no monitoring of this component. “We’re not there to tell you what to do. We’re just there to fight cancer,” said Dunham, adding that they hope the new model will encourage teams to stay.

Gray/New Gloucester High School has been extremely welcoming and helpful, said Dunham. The committee emphasized that they appreciate the Gray/New Gloucester community being willing to host the event. 

Cindy D’Alfonso, a cancer survivor, will be walking in her first Relay for Life event at the Sebago Lakes Region Relay. D’Alfonso was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram in June of 2014. The cancer had spread throughout one of her breasts, and the recommended treatment was a double mastectomy, as well as radiation. After her reconstruction surgery in May, more tests will be run, and the best treatment plan determined. 

D’Alfonso said the cancer diagnosis brought with it a lot of questions and the need to pull back from the intense hours she worked as a restaurant general manager. But all along, she has maintained a positive attitude, she said. “I was determined not to let this get me down. I’ve had a positive attitude through the whole thing. It’s everybody else I worry about not me,” she said. 

Last year, her husband and daughter participated in the Relay for Life, and D’Alfonso is excited to participate herself this year.

Dunham emphasized that the American Cancer Society considers people survivors from the day of their cancer diagnosis. Survivors are celebrated at every relay event, she said. This year at the Sebago Lakes Region Relay, a brunch will be held at 11:30 a.m., free for survivors and their caregivers.    
Peterson and Brenda Woodman are co-captains of one of the top fundraising teams. Woodman began her involvement in South Portland, when she joined the team of a co-worker who had been diagnosed with cancer. Shortly thereafter, her mother-in-law received a cancer diagnosis, and participation felt even more important. “It just was really lighting a fire for me,” she said. The following year, she asked Peterson, who she has been friends with since kindergarten, to join her at that event.

The two began looking for an event closer to home, and formed a team for the Sebago Lakes Region Relay. This will be their fifth year heading up a team at that event. “We’ll walk until a cure is found and we don’t hear the C word anymore,” Woodman said. 

People often get involved with relay because they have been touched by cancer somehow. Gregoire is no exception. She lost her mother to pancreatic cancer in 2006, and has involved with Relay for Life for at least ten years. This is her third year with the Sebago Lakes Region Relay. Gregoire went to high school in Windham and received a lot of support from teachers and staff while her mother was battling cancer. “I love the community, I love the Sebago Lakes Region Relay,” she said. 

The Sebago Lakes Region Relay for Life currently has 13 teams, with room for more. There is no registration fee, participants can register online, and anyone who raises $100 receives a T-shirt. For businesses looking to get involved, sponsorship begins at $250, and a sponsorship of $50 gets the business logo on the T-shirt. Information on events and current fundraising efforts can be found at, or on the Relay for Life of Sebago Lakes Region Facebook page.

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