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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Having a chemotherapy treatment this morning didn't stop two-year-old Rylee Simmons from walking two laps with her father, Jon during the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life at the Alvirne High School track in Hudson, Friday evening, June 24, 2011. Diagnosed with Leukemia at 18 months, she walked alongside hundreds of other cancer survivors during the 18-hour fundraiser.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Members of the "Friends For a Cure" walking group from Nashua dance to the music during the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life at the Alvirne High School track in Hudson, Friday evening, June 24, 2011. They include, from left, Jannette Roig, J.D. Hernandez, Joan Velazquez, and Yasmin Perez.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Bags placed along the track will be lit overnight in memory of loved ones during the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life at the Alvirne High School track in Hudson, Friday evening, June 24, 2011. The walkers will continue circling the track until noon Saturday
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Belinda Martino, left, and Trevor Murphy carry their group's banner during the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life at the Alvirne High School track in Hudson, Friday evening, June 24, 2011. They were representing the Nashua Regional Cancer Center.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Toting a sign with pictures of their families, Louann Audet, left, of Milford, and Lisa Fulton of Merrimack share a laugh during a break during the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life at the Alvirne High School track in Hudson, Friday evening, June 24, 2011.
Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hundreds participate in Relay for Life at Alvirne

HUDSON – Sean Roberson is making an effort in the fight against breast cancer one step at a time.

He treads the track side by side with his eight relay teammates, grinning and laughing despite the overcast skies and spattering rainfall.

Layered with two T-shirts, he lifts them with his left hand to proudly brandish a palm-size photograph taped over his heart. It’s a photo of his late wife: a smiling, middle-age blonde named Barbara Roberson with the dates of her birth and death, “1/4/62-6/7/05.”

“It’s OK, I’m still walking with her,” Roberson said, smiling humbly. He pats his wife’s photographed face lovingly.

Roberson was just one of more than 500 people on 50 registered teams who circled the Alvirne High School track in the local Relay for Life fundraiser.

The event, which kicked off Friday evening and was scheduled to continue until midday today , was hosted by the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Greater Nashua/Hudson and is expected to raise $75,000.

Roberson has been walking in Relay for Life events for years, since he and his wife were diagnosed with cancer.

“When I found out I had cancer, she would take me to doctors appointments,” he said. “And then when we found out she had cancer, I took her to the appointments.

“She didn’t make it, but she would be walking here.”

An 11-year survivor, Roberson walks with his relay team: eight friends who form the “4 Those we Love” group. They’re walking together for their seventh year. They wear matching gray T-shirts, and on their backs are printed 32 names of friends and family members who have died from various forms of cancer.

The Relay For Life is a community event in which the teams will march nonstop for 18 hours. The teams camp out overnight in tents, taking shifts to keep at least one member circling the track between 6 p.m. Friday and noon today.

When not walking, participants can join in on themed laps and games, such as Kung Foo Fighting at 3 a.m. and Loony Toons & Morning Cartoons at 9 a.m., a scavenger hunt at 6 a.m. and square dancing at 10 p.m.

Relay attendees such as Meagan Hamblin and her friends are ready to accept the all-nighter challenge. They were at the track four hours ahead of schedule, setting up their tent before the whistle had even blown for the first lap.

The 10 rising seniors from Hollis/Brookline High School call themselves the “Hollis Brookline Cavaliers.”

They march hand-in-hand in matching bright, tie-dyed T-shirts.

Hamblin got involved with the Relay for Life because of her mother, but when the number of people on her mother’s team reached capacity, Hamblin decided to form a team on her own.

“There’s so many people affected by cancer nowadays,” she said, promptly linking arms with her friends Olivia Trexler and Vivian Neilley to begin their march. Hamblin said both of her grandfathers died from cancer.

Another participant, Donna Stavffier-Sommers, marches bearing a banner with 18 of her fellow “Pink Panthers.”

The group, made up of family and friends, survivors and loved ones, ranges in age from young to middle age and older.

“It’s a great way to show your support,” she said. “We come out here to celebrate those that have survived and to participate with friends. It’s just a great event.”

And until there’s a cure, for most advocates such as Roberson, they’ll keep walking, one step at a time.

Alexandra Churchill can be reached at 594-6411 or achurchill@nashuatelegraph.com.