Hundreds rally at Nashua Relay for Life

Each person in the crowd at Saturday’s Relay for Life of Greater Nashua had a reason to attend.

Some were cancer survivors standing strong; others were family members fighting alongside their spouses, siblings and parents; and there were the sneaker-wearing caretakers in solidarity with their patients on a sizzling summer morning.

"As you walk around the track for the next 12 hours, these faces will be there for you," said Shana Hybsch, co-chairwoman of the Relay committee along with Steve Saxe. "Through your joy of celebrating our survivors, your tears of remembering loved ones lost and your determination in fighting back against this terrible disease."

The annual community event, held at Nashua High School North, is part of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life movement and is considered the largest and most impactful fundraiser to end cancer.

Similar events are held in hundreds of communities worldwide, including about 25 in the Granite State.

"Every one of you is going above and beyond the call of duty in the fight against cancer," said Laura Patnaude, community manager for the local Relay.

Teams are assembled among friends, families, schools, businesses or organizations that raise money for the American Cancer Society, then join at a local track and take turns walking, for up to 24 hours in some cases. Entertainment and activity tents were erected around the track.

Those fundraising have until the end of August to collect donations.

"Relay For Life is the signature event for the American Cancer Society and is not only a fundraiser to support the society’s lifesaving mission to help people stay well and get well, to find cures and to fight back, but it is also about a community uniting to fight cancer," Patnaude added.

Cancer survivors kicked off the event a few minutes after 11 a.m. with a victory lap. As the day progressed, the laps around the high school track were given different themes – from pirates to circus acts and heroes, just to remind participants that not all superheroes wear capes.

"What we need to do is so much more in terms of research and investing and finding a cure for all forms of cancer," said U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

"I think cancer has touched all of our lives in some way. I lost my grandmother to cancer, my husband’s a cancer survivor, and myself, I’ve had skin cancer," said Ayotte, who is facing a tough re-election bid this fall against Democrat Maggie Hassan. "I think all of us in some way or the other … we know someone who has been touched by cancer, so investing in research and finding a cure to cancer will make us a better and healthier society."

Chris Garofolo can be reached at 594-6465, or @Telegraph_Chris.