relay for life

June 17, 2005. I remember the day. My brother-in-law was on the other end of the phone, telling me to grab a pencil and sit down. I wrote furiously—tumor, eggplant, stage four, inoperable. My sister had cancer, again. This one was a beast. The phone clicked. The room went dark. Night had fallen, once again.

During the next seven months we clung to moments; we clung to memories; we clung to faith and family and friends. We shared manicures, pedicures and massages. We rode ATV’s through mud puddles, picked blackberries until our hands turned purple and listened to Barbra Streisand sing On Holy Ground. My sister recorded stories, accepted meals from neighbors and planned a dream vacation. A cancer diagnosis brings darkness, and we cling to whatever gets us through the night.

Relay_Life_12Now, each year at Mt. Lebanon High School Stadium, the light of small luminaria candles, glowing in unison with hundreds of others, encircle the high school track through the wee hours of the night. A big white tent fills with laughter and conversation, as survivors share a meal with caregivers and each other. The stadium is packed like a carnival with, games, activities and team booths. A community comes together—one fight, one disease, one hope: more birthdays!

This year Mt. Lebanon Relay for Life, in its fourth year, has set these goals:

• Each team adopts a cancer survivor to honor and fight for:

• Teams are composed of at least 15 members

• Each team raises at least $500

At dusk on Saturday, June 15, 2,300 luminaria will encircle the track, likely making Mt. Lebanon the largest luminaria ceremony in Pennsylvania and Ohio!

It is the survivors, the larger teams of family and friends, the money raised to fund research and help programs and the lighted tributes to those touched by cancer that gets partaicipants in the 24-hour event through the night. Please go to, where you can view the Relay fundraisers and activities, register for Relay as a survivor, participant or team, dedicate a luminaria or make a cash donation. Join us, one way or another, in our celebration of hope and life, 9 a.m. June 15 to 9 a.m. June 16 in the Mt. Lebanon stadium. Let’s get through the night, together!

— Sue Wilcher, 2013 Event Co-Chair


Photography by Katelynn Metz