The sixth annual Relay for Life at Niskayuna High School got underway at 6:30 p.m. on Friday with an opening ceremony. Walkers took to the high school track for the start of the 10-hour, overnight fundraising event to benefit the American Cancer Society.
Approximately 400 people, including more than a dozen cancer survivors, were in attendance. Thirty-two teams registered and raised over $31,000, but that number is expected to increase.
Walkers signed up for the fundraiser for a number of reasons.
Niskayuna Junior Maddie McCarthy was walking in memory of her grandfathers, both of whom passed away from cancer.
Also a junior at Niskayuna High School, Olivia Mannato was walking for her grandparents who had cancer but also for her uncle who died from the disease just last week.
First-time walker Khalifa Ndiaye, an 11th-grader at Niskayuna, just came out to support a good cause.
All three students were part of a team called Team Hope.
Sherie Grignon of Colonie was also a first-time participant. She signed up to walk for her neighbor who was just diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It’s good to see the community support,” Grignon said.
One of the youngest, and most vivacious attendees, was Wil Lim, 4, who is battling Leukemia. Lim was diagnosed with the childhood cancer in September 2015 and is undergoing chemotherapy. His mother, Bee, said his particular kind of Leukemia has an 80 percent cure rate.
“He’s a miracle baby,” she said. “He was born early and we’re hopeful he’s in that 80 percent.”
Bee said Wil likes to run and play ball and loves bubbles.
Wil and his family have felt support from their church, Trinity Baptist Church, and also from Niskayuna High School’s SAPE Club.
“SAPE Club is here walking for Wil,” said Bee. “I wanted to bring him here to support them. They have been so helpful and positive and encouraging to us.”
Walkers set up tents along the perimeter of the track for team members to take turns using during the wee hours of the event.
Along with the walking, many other events took place. Coach John Furey led a group in a superhero challenge. Former Niskayuna High School teacher Mike Jones, who died from cancer last fall, was honored.
At 9 p.m., the traditional luminaria ceremony took place with personalized messages on paper bags placed around the track and illuminated.
Final fundraising totals will be available in a couple of weeks.
The Niskayuna Relay for Life is completely organized by students, many of whom will graduate this year.
A new group of leaders will take the reins for next year’s event and while it’s still a year off, planning will begin immediately.
Any 8th- through 11th-graders are welcome to be on the planning committee and those interested or anyone who has questions can call Nick Liporace of the American Cancer Society at 518-220-6925.