“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ‐ Margaret Mead
This quote keeps coming to mind as I reflect about the first ever Springfield Burke Relay for Life. A little over a week ago, the inaugural Springfield Burke Relay for Life was held at West Springfield High School. I still find myself thinking about the new friendships and relationships that were created over the last year as a small group of neighbors and concerned residents got together for the first time to discuss the idea of a Springfield area Relay event.
All of us involved in Relay took up the cause because cancer impacted our life in some way. Many of us were involved in this Relay because of the loss of Beth Bryan. Last year, I wrote on this blog that “Beth was that rare individual that you come across on this all too often short life journey and you instantly want to be friends with. Beth touched more people than I think she perhaps even realized, from neighborhood friends who first met nearly 20 years ago putting their eldest children on the bus for the first day of school, to the countless families and friends she touched in her capacity as a swim coach in Northern Virginia.”
These worlds and circles of friends came together in an amazing display of community on May 14th in an extraordinary way demonstrating what I now know is the true heart of Relay – the spirit and compassion of all participants.
From the celebration surrounding the Survivors’ lap, to the emotion of the Luminaria Ceremony, to the hundreds of people who walked (or ran) all night, the event was amazing. The flexibility and willingness to pitch in any where needed by everyone in attendance was truly an inspiration. Watching 40-50 high school volunteers help set up the field was a sight to behold.
Working side by side with the dedicated educators at the high school strengthened the respect I have for our faculty and staff at West Springfield. And watching 400 + high school and college students give up their time to fight against a disease that has taken too much reaffirmed the faith I have in the next generation of leaders.
I could not have asked or imagined a better first Relay experience. I was blessed to work with a wonderful group of old and new friends. We were all united for a single purpose and together we exceeded all of our goals. We overcame our fears of the unexpected, the weather, and as a result nearly 1,000 people joined us and relayed with us all night. What a sight.
The community of friends that remain on our journey, without the friends and family who have been taken by this disease we unite to fight against, are certainly better off for having known these special people. Relay gave us a chance to work through some of the loss and demonstrated that we all need one another as we continue to grieve and adjust to the new daily routines in our lives. Relay provided us with a forum to truly begin to fight back. Relay gives us hope that one day we will be able to talk about cancer as horrible disease that no longer exists.
The Springfield Burke Relay and all the participants that took part in the event gave me more hope than ever before that a small group of people will indeed change the world once again.
That was the real gift of Relay.