By Dianne Cornish REVIEW STAFF
Janet Linton knows the toll that cancer can take on a person. She saw her mother fight it twice and win; she experienced the loss of a dear friend to it and she recently mourned the death of a friend’s teenaged son, who also lost his battle with it.
Last year, the Waterdown mother of two worked behind the scenes at the Flamborough Relay For Life. This year, she has jumped in with both feet and is working in the front lines as vice-chair of the event’s steering committee and co-chair of registration.
She is sharing the registration duties with her good friend, Sonia Vilar, also of Waterdown. Four years ago, the two women attended the relay at its former venue, the Flamborough Speedway in west Flamborough, and were deeply moved by the opening ceremonies and the survivors’ lap, which sees cancer survivors walk around the relay track carrying brightly coloured balloons while family, friends and onlookers cheer from the sidelines. From that moment on, they knew they wanted to get involved in the Cancer Society fundraiser, an all-night walk that honours cancer survivors and those who have lost their lives to the disease.
Last summer, Linton had only minimal involvement in the relay, helping to set up a tent for her daughter, Sarah, and her team; she was unable to do more because she had registered in the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer and it was held the same day as the relay.
But this year, she made sure to allot time specifically for the relay. “It’s a great community event,” she said. “We always have room for people to come and help. They can commit as much or as little time or expertise as they can.”
The steering committee co-chair said teams and volunteers can register online at http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=10537&pg=entry.
Last year, the event was held for the first time at Waterdown’s Memorial Park and attracted 19 teams. The goal this year is 25 and the number currently registered is 23.
There are countless ways to support the fundraiser besides being a volunteer or relay team member, Linton noted. People can donate to a team online or purchase a luminary in honour of a loved one for $5 from any team member or at Hello Gorgeous or Flamborough Plus Travel in Waterdown. The lighting of the luminaries–tea candles set in soil in decorated paper bags–at 10 p.m. on relay night is one of the most touching moments of the annual event, Linton said.
Business owners can help by becoming sponsors, donating food or providing items for the silent auction. Also, people can show their support just by being there to cheer on the walkers and survivors.
The survivors’ lap will have special meaning for Linton this year as her mother, Kathleen Kendall of Woodstock, has agreed to walk it. Linton has also decided to go beyond being a volunteer worker; she will be part of a team called Flamborough Foxes. Right now, the team has eight members and is hoping to recruit two more.
Linton’s 13-year-old son, Noah, is co-captain of a team with Chris McBrayne, son of the late Carol McBrayne, the friend who Linton lost to cancer. Her husband, Robert, will be pitching in to help set up for the event, which will get underway at 7 p.m., Friday, June 15 and wrap up at 7 a.m., June 16. Members of the Flamborough Community Church will once again provide a free breakfast to all the walkers and volunteers at the close of the relay.
Linton is determined to do all that she can to win the fight against cancer which is why she and her husband, owners of Comfort First Heating and Cooling in Waterdown for the past 11 years, signed up as volunteers for the Weekend to End Women’s Cancer in Toronto last September. They were in charge of safety for the participants in the two-day, 60-kilometre walk that began and ended at Downsview Park.
“I expect I’ll need to power sleep on Saturday,” Linton said of the aftermath of her participation in the 12-hour event. Still, she isn’t complaining because she, like the many other participants, knows only too well the reason for the event being run all night.
“Cancer never sleeps,” she said somberly. “That’s the whole reason for this all-night relay.”