By jordyn grzelewski
“I was in tears. I couldn’t even put my shoes on. I came in my slippers.”
That’s how badly Debbie Ziccardi, 59, of Poland, wanted to attend the Relay for Life of Poland last year. After a year of hard work, she was not going to miss out on the big day even though she was in the hospital recovering from surgery.
Ziccardi will be back this year with Debbie’s Angels, the relay team she formed three years ago after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
This year’s Relay for Life will start at 6 p.m. Friday and will conclude with a ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday. It will take place at the high-school football stadium, at 3199 Dobbins Road.
The event is open to the public, and will include a dinner for cancer survivors, a luminaria ceremony to honor survivors, live music, contests, raffles, fitness workshops hosted by Body Movin’ Fitness, children’s games and a cornhole tournament as well as other activities.
“Just coming out and being a part of the event” is a great way to support the cause, said Stefanie Sobinovsky, the event chairwoman of the committee that organizes Poland’s Relay.
Relay for Life is a national fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society organized by local community volunteers with the goal of raising money for cancer research and increasing awareness about the disease. Communities around the country host their own events throughout the year, all of which feature a 24-hour “relay” in which participants can walk and registered teams raise money.
The Poland event, which started in 2008, raised more than $65,000 last year. This year, the goal of the committee is to match last year’s results. So far, the 14 teams with about 150 participants have raised nearly $26,000 and expect to reach their goal over the weekend.
Sobinovsky said she got involved with Relay for Life because of her family’s experiences with cancer and because she met so many cancer patients when she worked in a nursing home.
“All of the women on my mom’s side [of the family] have had breast cancer,” she said.
Ziccardi’s decision to get involved also was a personal one. She formed the Debbie’s Angels team in 2012 with Holly Marshall, 59, of Mineral Ridge, who is the mother-in-law of Ziccardi’s son. They started the team not only because of Ziccardi’s battle with breast cancer, but because many other people between their two families have fought cancer. Out of the 17 team members, most of whom are family members, there are four cancer survivors.
“Someone years ago helped me, so I figure I’m helping someone now,” Ziccardi said. She and Marshall plan to do the relay for as many years as they can.
“If I can’t physically be here ... I would still help raise money on my own and donate it to them,” Ziccardi said.
The event also will have the option of an endurance walk, for which seven people are currently registered. The participants will walk for the entire 24-hour period as a gesture in honor of the challenges faced by many cancer patients.
“Often cancer patients can’t sleep due to treatment and the emotional impact of what they are going through, and sometimes they hit periods where they might feel like they want to give up. So, our endurance walkers continue through the night without sleep and continue walking when they think they can’t in support of all cancer patients,” said Tasha Wells, the American Cancer Society event staffer for the Boardman, Springfield and Poland relays. “Endurance walking is a both a physical and mental challenge that helps raise money for a great cause.”
For more information or to make a donation to one of the teams, visit www.relayforlife.org/poland.