Relay for Life in Shelton celebrates, motivates and remembers

As a seven-year cancer survivor, Michelle Springer realizes the importance of the annual Relay for Life of the Naugatuck Valley.

“This is a valuable thing to do so people can become more aware. I had no signs or symptoms,” said Springer, who has attended many relays in recent years.

She was sitting with her 20-year-old daughter Taylor as they prepared for the event’s opening ceremony on Saturday at the Riverwalk.

“I view this as a celebration of my life,” said Springer, a Derby resident. “I survived. I’m alive to see my daughter grow up.”

Many hundreds of people were at the Riverwalk to participate in the 20th anniversary of the local Relay for Life, which raises money for the American Cancer Society.

They walked around an oval track created on the grass, they staffed team booths, they visited and purchased items — from food to crafts — to support the cause, and they provided moral support for family members and friends.

The relay went from 2 p.m. on Saturday until 8 a.m. on Sunday, with each team keeping someone on the track throughout the 18-hour charity event. “Cancer never sleeps, so neither do we,” organizers said.

The weather was good, which hasn’t always been the case recently. “This is the best weather we’ve had in years,” said Jason Carlucci, who co-chaired the event with Shelton resident Kristen Ostrowski.

Almost 400 participants

The 2015 relay attracted 34 teams, almost 400 participants, and raised more than $86,000, according to the event’s website.

“Without you, this wouldn’t have happened,” Ostrowski told the crowd while on stage for the opening ceremony with other organizing committee members.

“This committee put in an insane amount of hours and time into this event,” said Carlucci, who owns the Dew Drop Inn in Derby.

Among the participants was Donna Howell of Seymour, who survived breast cancer 22 years ago. “I try to do this every year,” Howell said. “It’s important to get the word out that there is a cure.”

The event included a nighttime luminary ceremony, when lit bags are personalized and placed along the track to honor those who are battling, or have battled, cancer. There also was a survivors lap and a caregivers lap to recognize all those affected by cancer.

Family activities ranging from kickball to karaoke, and line dancing to a midnight movie, were offered. Live entertainment was provided by musicians and dance troupes.

Click below to see other 2015 Relay for Life photos: