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Illuminating with Hope and Inspiration

By Jeannie Howard

Year after year the reach of cancer continues to spread, touching the lives of countless individuals. While feelings of helpless can often take over, a small, yet significant, way that individuals can contribute to the fight and find solace is by connecting with others dealing with cancer. For more than thirty years, The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events, held throughout the year across the nation, are a powerful conduit for healing and fundraising.

“This event is a way to find others in similar situations and to realize that we are not the only ones,” described Frank Biafore, event lead for the Relay for Life East Shore event. “It can also be a very emotional community supporting event.”

The Relay for Life East Shore will take place from 10 a.m. Saturday, August 11 to 10 a.m. Sunday, August 12 at Cerrito Vista Park. “It is a 24-hour walking event because people with cancer have to deal with it 24-hours a day,” he said. Kicking off the event will be an opening ceremony honoring individuals that have been affected by cancer, followed by the survivor walk, which is open to all cancer survivors. Closing the first day is the visually and emotionally powerful Luminaria Ceremony when hundreds of crisp white bags containing lights, each representing a life, are lit.

“At dusk, the bags are illuminated, lighting the entire track like little stars,” Biafore said, describing the Luminaria Ceremony. According to the American Cancer Society, this ceremony is a symbol of the darkness that patients feel when they are diagnosed becoming illuminated by hope and inspiration. The luminaria bags can be dedicated in memory of a person who has lost their life to cancer, in support of a person fighting cancer, and in honor of a person who has either won their battle with cancer or for a caregiver. Relay participants are welcome to write messages to, and the names of, their loved ones affected by cancer. “We will be reading all of the names honored on the luminaria bags. It is the most moving ceremony,” he said. Luminaria bags are available online or at the event for a suggested $10 donation.

There will also be live entertainment during the day; Cornbread Willie and Magical Nathanial are just two of the entertainers that will be at the Relay for Life East Shore event helping to keep spirits high while participants honor those they love. In addition to the entertainment, many of the participating teams will have a variety of concessions available for purchase. “Frequently items for sale have been food, light up items, and cancer awareness items like t-shirts and hats,” said Biafore.

The event has not reached its team capacity, Biafore stresses. So, those interested in participating are strongly encouraged to join an existing team or create a new team. “Registration never closes,” he said. “People can sign up at the event.” Unsure if you have enough people to make a team; teams can be as small as one person, according to Biafore. Organizers request that each participant raise a minimum of $100 in donations.

All funds raised are sent to the Americana Cancer Society where “the monies raised go to various programs,” said Biafore. “Such as Roads to Recovery that gives people rides to their cancer treatments; there is a wig program that provides wigs to those that lose their hair; and some parts of the country have Hope Lodges that provide lodging to patients who have to travel far from home for treatment.” Also, funds raised help support potentially life-saving research grants.

In his seventh year of helping to organize a Relay for Life, the event is deeply significant to Biafore. “A number of us involved have been touched by cancer and have lost loved ones,” he said. Having lost both of his parents to colon cancer, supported other loved ones in their fights, and being a 24-year cancer survivor himself, Biafore was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. “It could have been devastating to learn, but, in my case, it was detected very early,” he shared. “So, I have a good idea of how to take care of this and what to do, and I also have a prebuilt support network I can rely on.”

For those interested in registering to walk in the Relay or even fill a spot on the Executive Leadership Team to help with the finishing touches on this year’s planning, or getting a head start on next year’s event, Biafore strongly encourages you to reach out. Biafore can be reached at (510) 232-4264, ext. 16, or email inquiries can be sent to

Relay for Life East Shore 10 a.m. Saturday, August 11 to 10 a.m. Sunday, August 12 at Cerrito Vista Park, 950 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito.

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