The Survivor Lap may be the most significant part of any Relay for Life.
In Langton on Friday, May 11th, students from Sacred Heart Catholic School and Langton Public School will show their support by standing inside the Langton Lions Sports Park track as cancer survivors complete their special lap, and then join them on the track.
It's a grandmother hugging her grandchildren, grandparents walking with their grandchildren, holding hands.
Held every two years, it will be Langton's sixth elementary school Relay for Life since 2008. Some survivors return year after year, some only attend once.
Everyone is welcome, said Sacred Heart School's Karen Nunn, a member of the Relay organizing committee. Any cancer survivors interested in joining the May 11th Relay for Life in Langton are invited to contact Sacred Heart School or Langton Public School.
"We try to get an idea of how many to expect that day," said Nunn, "because we have T-shirts for them, and we have a little 'welcome' for them with snacks and drinks.
"So if there are any survivors who have taken part in the past, or would like to take part this year, they are welcome to and they can call the school (519-875-2556) to let us know."
Sponsor forms have already gone home with students from both schools, so if you know a student and haven't been contacted yet - reach out. Or contact either school to learn how to make a donation.
"We'll have opening ceremonies in the morning, around 9-9:15," said Nunn. "We have the Survivor Lap right after the opening. Then the schools will take turns walking the track all day."
Closing ceremonies will be about 2-2:15 p.m.
Luminaries are available at $5 per paper bag, which will be set up in the Sacred Heart gymnasium on May 11th with candles.
"They can be purchased ahead of time here at the school," she said.
"We're also having a hamburger lunch again."
Last year's Relay for Life raised just over $10,000 and since 2008 the students have raised more than $65,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
RELAY FOR LIFE IN LANGTON
Students from Sacred Heart School and Langton Public School join forces every other year to battle cancer with an elementary school Relay for Life.
On May 11, 2018, survivors - and students - will gather in the Langton Lions Sports Park to 'fight back, remember and celebrate.' Pledge sheets went home with students from both schools last week.
Two years ago Langton held its first elementary school Relay for Life without teacher, organizer and cancer survivor Pierre Chasse, who retired from Sacred Heart in June 2015, effectively 'passing the torch' to a committee of teachers.
"Yes, officially passed the torch," Chasse smiled a few minutes after the 2016 Relay opening ceremonies at the Langton community park. "We had discussed it (in 2015) and there were some teachers who said they would continue it. I made myself available to help in any capacity, but to be quite honest they didn't really need my help. Just a couple things I guided them through, but they did it pretty much on their own - they just asked me to speak today.
"They tried to make it their own and I think they did a fabulous job."
The format did not change in 2016. It still involved both schools with opening ceremonies in the morning, a Survivor Lap, followed by students walking around the track throughout the day in 30-minute shifts, a fundraising barbecue and freezies, luminaries in the gymnasium, and closing ceremonies which featured four volunteers - two students and two adults - donating hair for cancer wigs.
Live music was played by three Sacred Heart students during opening and closing ceremonies in 2016, which in 2010 featured Juno Award nominee Terry Sumsion (1947-2011), who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2007.
"They kept the same formula - it had the same feel," said Chasse. "It was the same, I think, because it worked. They experienced it themselves, they knew just how moving it could be, how effective it is. And how much it means for the survivors, because ultimately I think that's what we tried to do.
"It is something for the survivors to see this," said Chasse, himself a cancer survivor. "Because at one point in your life when you deal with this... your life changes. In an instant. When they tell you that, it's 'now what?' You have no idea what you're getting into, you have no idea what's going to happen. And you're life changes like that. Instantly."
"And it's not just at that moment either," said Dave Barnes, coordinator of the Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life Youth Program, who in 2016 was attending his fifth Langton Relay for Life. "It's forever."
"It is forever," Chasse nodded. "It is life-changing. And anybody who has experienced it will tell you the same thing. You find that out, it knocks the wind out of you until you start to compose yourself to figure out what it is and what's going on.
"I have been very fortunate. My type of cancer, I was told, if it had been 20 or 30 years ago, it is very unlikely it would have been treatable. It's through research and donations and money pouring in that allows them to treat this type of cancer... but we still have lots out there that we are still trying to figure out a cure."
Barnes recalled his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time, being diagnosed with cancer.
"And now... my daughter turned 14 back in February and everything's good. But same thing, had it been 10 years prior to that... they would have said no, we can't do it, it's your life over the baby's."
"It's like a gift every time you see your daughter," said Chasse. "You can't put a price on anything like that.
"Relay for Life, it's a big event. On many levels. When we first got into it, of course, I had just finished finished cancer, I was just coming back. You feel so grateful to get through this fight and you want to do something to give back. I remember I got in touch with Dave and it made it a lot easier on me because that year we were going into it completely blind."
"It's so much easier after the first one," said Barnes.
Organizers from both schools, said Chasse, deserve credit.
"It takes a lot of effort. I started it in 2008, and I'm not saying on my own because I had a lot of support from the staff, but I gave it that initial push. Once it's going, after that it's a little bit easier. But I can't say how much I appreciate the fact that they have continued it. There's no words for that, it means a lot that something I started is continuing and thriving.
"That's one thing I can say about my school, the staff was always so supportive. Every staff member. But anything I ever asked, they always came through."
"It's great when you have the whole school behind you," said Barnes.
"And I would bet it's the same at Langton Public School," nodded Chasse.
"They said 'it's great to work together,'" said Barnes. "We're all in the same boat."
"Cancer affects anyone," said Chasse. "Any age, any race, any religion. It is right to do this Relay together, what a way to show the kids - and anybody else - these two schools are different, but they work together today.
"Both schools have had different administrators since we started. And that is to me a key - that we've had a lot of support from the administrators - because it's a disruption throughout the day, there's no doubt about it. But they're on-board with it, they're right behind and supportive, and that's what keeps it going.
"I could tell Dan (Pace), it was his first Relay (2016) but I could tell he was very supportive from the get-go, and I think very excited to see this whole community event taking place here. There's a lot of pride in that, to see that support from the community. What can I say about the support we've had from Langton over the years? They are just fabulous... fabulous."
In five Langton Relays (2008-2016) more than $65,000 was raised for the Canadian Cancer Society, including more than $17,000 for the inaugural event in 2008.
"So much support here for all the years we've done it," said Chasse. "For the size of the community, the size of the schools, I think we've done pretty well over the years."
"It's set up by the school, but it's still a community event," noted Barnes. "That's the beauty of small towns. I'm impressed."
Chasse set a fundraising target of $5,000 in 2008, eventually raising just over $18,000.
"I remember saying, if we get $5,000 you can shave my head. If we get $10,000 you can dress me up in whatever you want. But the kids blasted that... I knew we were well over ($10,000) even before the event started. And that year we received more than $1,000 after the event - people saw it in the news and on the London station that year, and phoned the school. We had people dropping off cheques at the school. That year was just unbelievable.
"I think it touched people."
"I remember talking to Pierre a week or two before," Barnes laughed, "and he said they were at $12,000 or $13,000. I said, 'What!? Did I hear that right?' I was just amazed."