They’re called luminaries. Small white bags that glow in the night. Oddly enough they represent both survival and death. For 24 hours, numerous luminaries will be placed on Chippewa Middle School’s track as a symbolism of one disease that has kills millions of Americans every year and the millions more who survive it.
And Meridian Christian Church will be in the forefront of this event.
Meridian Christian is joining forces with the East Lansing Chapter of the American Cancer Society for its annual Relay for Life, an event that raises money and awareness for cancer. Meridian Township’s Relay for Life will take place May 16-17, starting at 3 pm Friday to 3 pm Saturday at Chippewa Middle School.
According to American Cancer Society’s website, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States and 565, 650 Americans are expected to die from various forms of the disease. Meridian Christian has spent the last five years getting people of Meridian Township involved in the battle against the disease.
“Meridian Christian thought it would be a neat way to get the community involved,” said Jamie Wetzel, the church’s associate pastor and captain of Meridian Christian Church’s team. “Our church rents Chippewa Middle School for services so we’re going to use the track for the event. Relay for Life is for those who’ve struggled directly or indirectly with cancer. It’s a good way to give back to something we all care about.”
The event will also include activities for kids, movies, karaoke and a special lap, known as the Ceremony of Hope, that’s dedicated to those struggling with cancer and those who lost their battle.
Every year there is a theme that goes along with Relay for Life and this year it’s “Dancing Through the Decade.” There are 11 teams participating and 37 participants. Besides Meridian Christian, other teams include Michigan State University’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and Starbucks in Okemos. Meridian Christian has five people on the relay team so far.
“The teams each chose a lap that represents a certain decade like the 70s or 80s,” said Wetzel.
The teams are the ones who raise money and donate it to their local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Meridian Christian’s goal is to raise $700.
“Typically, individuals raise their own money through various fundraisers,” said Wetzel. “Some people will raise money one behalf of someone who passed away from cancer or is battling it right now.”
According to Julie Hansen, chairperson of Meridian Township’s Relay for Life, this will impact both community and the battle against cancer.
“It’s a community effort. We’re getting Haslett and Okemos together, businesses are getting involved, people are coming together for a cause that affects everyone,” said Hansen.
This event is personal for Hansen as well and has only made her more driven to find a cure.
“I had an aunt who died of cancer when I was younger,” said Hansen. “It just seems like you hear of more and more people who are dying and getting cancer. Everybody knows somebody who has cancer. It’s a disease that comes out of nowhere so this is a worthy cause.”
She added that what makes Relay for Life unique is it’s an event to bring awareness of all cancers.
“This is for cancer in general. Breast cancer gets a lot of attention. There are tons of other forms of cancer that get no recognition or funds,” said Hansen. “This event helps other people with different forms of cancer.”
Meridian Christian hopes that Relay for Life will make people more conscious of cancer.
“People are affected by cancer everyday,” said Wetzel. “We’re trying to spread awareness of how widespread cancer is in our community.” We’re putting in our best efforts and it’s good for our congregation to be involved in this event.”
If you want to donate money or attend Relay for Life, call Meridian Christian Church at (517) 332-8044. There will also be a meeting on Sunday April 13 at MCC in the Senior Center after services. Meridian Christian Church is located at 4225 Okemos Rd. in Okemos, Mich.
It is important to note that the death rate of cancer has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s; 18.4 percent decrease in men and 10.4 percent decrease for women. Nearly half a million lives have been saved due to new advances in technology and medicine.
Yet, in Hansen’s eyes, with 1,500 people dying each day from cancer, more work needs to be done and Relay for Life will help in that effort.
“It is a 24-hour event where teams walk on a track, but it also symbolizes that cancer never sleeps and we’re celebrating survivors and remembering those we lost. I do think one day we’ll find a cure. You have to have hope.”