Young and Yates are this year’s Relay For Life honorary chairs

The 2015 Relay For Life of Fairfield will be held at Fairfield Ludlowe High School (FLHS) on June 6. The event raises money to fund The American Cancer Society’s many programs that include research, education, advocacy and service in the fight against cancer.

This year marks the 30th anniversary nationally of Relay For Life. Fairfield’s Relay, which was founded in 1998, is expected to draw a crowd in excess of 2,000 people. 130 plus teams of children and adults whose lives have been touched by cancer, converge to walk the FLHS track from 3 p.m. to midnight, keeping at least one member of each team walking at all times, Relay style.

Events will also include a Frozen T-Shirt Contest, Mr. Relay Pageant, a live band and singers from the local schools. Also, at our Hair Donation station, anyone with at least eight inches of un-dyed hair to spare can donate their locks to be made into wigs for people who have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy. Hairdressers from Hair Bellagio, a local salon, will be cutting ponytails from 6:30-8 p.m.

Team Check-in will begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, at the main entrance to the school’s track and field. The Opening Ceremony, which will start at 6 p.m. and includes speeches by this year’s Honorary Chairs, cancer survivors Ilene Young and Cameron Yates. Young and Yates will also lead fellow survivors in the first ceremonial lap of Relay, followed by a second lap that includes the survivors’ caregivers. Then walkers from every team return to the track, walking until midnight.

Prior to the Opening Ceremony, a complimentary reception will take place from 4-5:30 for all Survivors and Caregivers at the event — advance registration is required.

At 9 p.m., as darkness falls, The Luminaria Ceremony, which is the emotional center of the evening, finds the track aglow with Luminaria memorials lit to honor those lost to cancer and pay tribute to those still battling the disease. At this time, all take to the track to walk a lap in silence.

At 11 p.m. the Fight Back Ceremony celebrates our Survivors and their spirit with a Martial Arts demonstration, followed by the Closing Ceremony and Top Teams Awards at 11:30 p.m. Then to cap off the night, a session of Moonlight Yoga at Midnight.

Ilene Young

Ilene Young

Honorary Chair Ilene Young was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in June 2012, just a few weeks after participating in Relay for Life. She had been feeling sick for several weeks and suspected something serious was wrong. Her own father’s death from stomach cancer led her to have extensive tests in that area — including a CAT scan which revealed a mass that was later diagnosed as ovarian cancer. Several surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy followed.

After losing her hair from the effects of chemotherapy, the ever-humorous Young said, “I got wiggy with it!! I could finally have Farrah Fawcett hair!!” On coping day to day, “It’s not a choice.” Mother to a 6-year-old daughter, Young credits her mother, family members and friends for their incredible support. “It takes a village, and let me tell you, mine kicks a**.”

“Relay is all your village — we are all fighting the same nasty fight on different levels. If you are at FLHS that day it affects you, it affects all of us. And this is that one time that we can all get together and kick it’s a** — together. As Ilene continues to fight cancer, she remains active as a Relay For Life Committee Member and as captain of her Relay team “The Ovary Actors.”

Cameron Yates with his father (holding the IV) during treatment

Cameron Yates with his father (holding the IV) during treatment

Relay’s other Honorary Chair, Cameron Yates, now 18-years-old, fought his battle with cancer at the age of 4. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Cameron’s young age actually had an advantage from his point of view, “I was really lucky to not understand very much and even now not to remember much, and that’s part of the reason I got through it.” He and his parents drew strength and support from family, friends and neighbors. “I think it was harder on my parents than it was on me”.

“Mom sent out regular emails with updates to family and friends.” Both of Cameron’s grandmothers would come from different parts of the country whenever his family needed them.

Cameron with Fairfield Chief of Police Joseph Sambrook.

Cameron with Fairfield Chief of Police Joseph Sambrook.

Also, the Fairfield Police Department was a big support. Cameron was a big fan of police officers. A neighbor who worked at the Fairfield Police Dept. told officers, including Chief Joseph Sambrook, Cameron’s story. After hearing this, patrol officers started visiting Cameron, lifting his spirits by spending time with him, and even broughim Police Department patches. “They were my friends when I was four. I looked around and saw these officers and I idolized them. They were amazing — showing up at my door everyday with their motorcycles. It was incredible to have that network of people around me. That was really what it was about for me.”

Cameron recently sat down with former Police Chief Sambrook at the Circle Diner in Fairfield. One of the things he said that resonated was ‘Cameron, I have to thank you for how special you made us all feel at the police department about what we did and what we were able to do for you and your family.’ He said that in all his time at the department he had never seen anyone work together as well as they did when coming around to support Cameron. Being and honorary chair “means a lot that I’m able to have the opportunity to speak in front of the cancer survivor community. Hopefully I can make my experience with cancer meaningful — helping others that are going through it now. That is my goal”

Cameron with his high school rowing coach Sharon Kriz and teammate Jeff Monahan

Cameron with his high school rowing coach Sharon Kriz and teammate Jeff Monahan

Cameron is just finishing his freshman year at Cornell University where he is a member of Cornell’s Division 1 Varsity Men’s Rowing.

For more information on Relay For Life of Fairfield, including how to participate as a survivor, donor, sponsor or volunteer, please visit relayforlife.org/fairfieldct or call the American Cancer Society at 203-563-1500.

Cameron Yates with his sisters Caroline and Bridget

Cameron Yates with his sisters Caroline and Bridget

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