Surprise Start at the Newburgh Relay for Life

Rainy morning sky couldn't keep the Town of Newburgh from celebrating their Sweet 16 over the weekend. Saturday's opening ceremony at Cronomer Park began with no less than a skydive out of a helicopter into the center of the local sports field. What kind of sweet 16 was this you might ask? One for the record books.

Relay for Life is in its 16th year here. The annual event has a long history of vast participation (once upon a time even Newburgh Free Academy alumni ran a tent) and procedes generously given towards American Cancer Society. During my participatory year 15 of us worked through the night - blender blaring on high making fruit smoothies!  I never saw so many starberries in my life!

Year after year vendors line the perimeter of the park to pay tribute to community members afflicted by cancer, raising money and awareness in a profound display of community action.

It is a weekend-long rain or shine marathon fundraiser that starts with a survivor lap. Participating teams walk through the night.  A butterfly release accompanied the 4pm opening ceremonies Saturday afternoon. Luminaria dedications and recognition of community members familiar with the battle are all part of the annual Relay. This year there were also fireworks and paper lanterns.

Leslie Bardin releases Paper lantern - photo by Pam Leignadier

Cumulative totals for 2013 broke the 60k mark! American Cancer Society uses relay funds for research purposes, lodging for patients at Hope Lodge, Road to Recovery driving program and mind/body empowerment workshops* = (pulled from the Relay website).

A range of talented performers including Pumping Madonna took to the stage to help play event goers through an overnight of laps through the park. 47 teams including Miss Cindy's Neighborhood Nursery, Dancing Divas and Herd of Turtles contributed to more than half the total amount raised. Additional donations came in through participating vendors and local/corporate sponsorship. 

Event-day honorees included 3-year-old Leukemia patient Christian Couey who is currently undergoing treatment. Christian was the recipient of a teddy bear that quite literally fell from the sky. After the skydiver made landfall he went straight for the young Marshall who clutched his furry friend tightly for the remained of his stay at the event. Christian (in the arms of his Dad) went on to lead the crowd in a survivor lap around the field alongside Everett Smith and Nancy Makofske. 

It is a bittersweet journey to witness the survivors and caregivers coming around the field full-circle. Recently diagnosed patients are asked to trail the survivors in their first lap in order to witness their future in fighting cancer. This event is consistently a win for everyone involved - memories of that Fruit Smoothies for a Cause booth still lingering. 

Want more info about Newburgh's Relay for Life? Contact Tina Eckert at or 845.440.2509 Ext. 62509. There's always next year!

AND It's not too late to get involved! The following LOCAL relay for life events were pulled from American Cancer Society's website..

Hunter Mountain - June 28th

All Sport Fishkill - June 28th

Arlington Highschool in Lagrangeville - June 15th

Jack Devito Memorial Field - Yorktown Heights - June 14th

Goshen Highschool - June 15th

Ann M Dormer Middle School - Ossining - June 15th

Search by zip code for these and more Relay events on the official website.

Christian Couey in Dads arms..What an honor to meet this kid..3 years-old in the fight of his life. 

We are all thinking of You. 

great work to all involved!!!

Pam Leignadier is a branch manager for Walden Savings Bank and also took most of the photos. At least the good ones! Thanks Pam