While there have been numerous fundraisers leading up to the 2009 Relay for Life, the actual event kicks off at 5 p.m., tonight (Friday) at Mackle Park.
Attendees will enjoy an assortment of fun, games, food and merchandise.
As the teams compete against each other to raise money to defeat cancer, their competitiveness emphasizes their sincerity to make “strides” against cancer and enjoy the joyous celebration of life.
Part of this celebration takes off on the first lap where the honorary survivors take the lead before a contingent of survivors.
This is followed by the dedicated and loving caregivers, which include family and friends who have sacrificed so much for cancer patients undergoing treatment.
We are fortunate to have two recent cancer survivors take the charge as the honorary survivors, Elaina LaGrotta and Dave Bierbauer (Disco Dave).
Taking the charge is an appropriate statement for both Elaina and Dave.
Many know Elaina LaGrotta from her delicious dishes found at her warm, family-run restaurant.
Elaina is a young survivor at 31 years old. She had just opened the restaurant six months earlier when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. It required four surgeries and six months of chemotherapy to reach the status of “in remission.”
An optimistic approach, a “can do” attitude, along with the loving support of family and friends, kept Elaina strong and enabled her to keep the restaurant going as she underwent some difficult treatments and surgeries.
One creative, fun approach that Elaina used to lighten her predicament was to allow young family members to draw on her bald head and name her scars. Her goal was to make it fun, not scary for the children in her family.
Eleana is glad to announce that she is inching towards the one year mark of remission with only three months to go.
Another well known figure on Marco Island for more than 28 years will be the second honorary survivor, Dave Bierbauer, better known as Disco Dave. He is celebrating recent news of “cancer free,” delivered on St. Patrick’s Day.
Dave relishes in the fact that every day is special. His tough journey from diagnosis to “cancer free” was a culmination of extensive head and neck surgery, chemo, and radiation.
Dave attributes his optimistic attitude to the love and support of Marco Island which he affectionately terms as his “family.”
As Disco Dave tells his story, you realize he considers all of the island his caregivers in making his transition to “cancer survivor.” He says he is overwhelmed by the generous support and caring gestures by many Islanders.
For attendees, it will be interesting to see how many Islanders join Dave on the caregiver lap
During the evening, attendees can purchase a luminary bag which they decorate in honor or memory of a loved one with cancer. They place the decorated luminary bag at the track so the attendee knows where to find their candle.
At 9 p.m., the track becomes illuminated with the candle lighting ceremony, also known as Luminaria.
This beautiful lighting ceremony highlights the extensive reach and, unfortunately, the large number of people touched by cancer.
To remember a loved one undergoing treatment or light a candle for someone that has lost their battle with cancer, contact Cheryl Axelson at 394-2849, or the American Cancer Society Office on Marco at 404-7067.