Relay for Life Surpasses Fundraising Goal

May 30, 2023
Lead Organizers for the Bedford Relay For Life, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society that took place over the weekend, included Gianna Missiti, Lulu Steele, Coco Steele, Elena Protasowicki, and Lia O’Neil. Staff Photo: Jenny Stewart

The 2023 American Cancer Society Relay for Life at Bedford High School on Saturday night and Sunday morning easily surpassed its $25,000 fundraising goal.

BHS senior Gianna Missiti, overall chair of the event, shared the news with several dozen volunteers assembled around the 50-yard line at Sabourin Field at the start of the 13-hour relay. She said the campaign raised more than $35,000, bolstered by a $10,000 shot in the arm from the Watertown Italian-American Social Club.

“We have all been impacted by this horrible disease in some way,” Missiti said. “We really want to help everyone that we can.”

The Bedford Relay for Life, which began in 2006, is a team competition. The concept is at least one representative of each group walking or running on the track continuously for the entirety. Supporters pledge donations as a flat rate or per lap.

After the event, Missiti explained that her father, an immigrant from Italy, joined the Watertown club soon after arriving. “As time went on, the club slowly started to decrease in numbers. The remaining members then went on to sell the building and donate all remaining money to charities, one of these charities being Relay for Life.”

Purple, symbolizing hope, has long been the official color of Relay for Life, and organizers festooned the Sabourin Field complex with balloons and streamers of that color. 

Members of the BHS Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps presented the colors, and during the ensuing recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” even the pickleball players at the adjacent tennis courts paused. 

The formal Relay for Life activities began with a walking lap around the track for about a dozen cancer survivors and caregivers, as several dozen volunteers lined the field alongside the inside lane and applauded.

One of the survivors later addressed the volunteers with his personal story about overcoming leukemia as a teenager.

Hasan Meyers of Cambridge said he was diagnosed in 1986 at age 13, but didn’t understand the seriousness of the illness for several months until the death of a fellow patient he had befriended. “I came to the clinic one day, and a nurse gave me the bad news. That’s when everything turned around for me.”

“I decided I was no longer going to allow it to own me,” he said of the disease. “I walked into the hospital with positivity, and it made a difference over the next two years.” His last chemotherapy treatment was in March 1989, he said, followed by five years of monitoring. “Then the doctor said, ‘I think you are good.’ And that was my journey.”

Meyers is field manager for Buono Pest Control of Belmont, which was the primary commercial sponsor of this year’s Relay for Life.

Participants spending the night set up camp-style shelters in spots outside the track perimeter, with signs proclaiming team names, like “All Night for the Fight.”

Organizers also raised money through a silent auction featuring an array of framed photographs of significant Boston sports heroes.

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