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My Relay for Life: Not Just a Fundraiser

Heather Padula and familyI am a busy mother of four. My husband and I both work full-time jobs, as well as volunteer and participate in the community. We include our children as well, so they can see the importance of contributing to our community.

I have had many family members and friends affected by many different forms of cancer from a very young age. I have lost my grandfather, my father-in-law, my daughter’s grandmother, a friend in middle school, a high school friend, and another high school friend’s husband to various forms of cancer. I also have had my other grandfather, an uncle, an aunt, and a high school friend’s infant daughter affected by cancer (they are survivors!), as well as many other friends’ and co-workers’ family members affected. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you have in some way been touched by cancer through a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

I have been participating in Utica’s Relay for Life since it was held at JFK Middle School—around their track/football field—many years ago. I would participate with my family, in honor of our family members and friends. I still do this today with my own children, for many more family members and friends that we have lost, or are fighting the battle.

So, what does Relay for Life mean to me and my family, and to so many others? Relay for Life means hope. It means people coming together to fight for a cure, to someday make the world cancer-free, for our children and their children.

I participate with our Relay for Life team at First Source, and help with fundraising throughout our branches beforehand, as well as on the day of the event. My children participate and volunteer, walking and fundraising at the event. We also participate in the Luminaria Ceremony every year, which is a very moving ceremony where candles are lit and placed in paper bag lanterns on which a name, wish, or message can be written. They commemorate those who have passed from cancer, give hope and support to those currently suffering from cancer, and celebrate survivors. I highly recommend attending it if you haven’t yet, as it is definitely something to experience (First Source sells Luminary Bags at every branch).

Why help? I think it’s unfortunate that everyone seems to know someone affected by a form of cancer, and it’s important for us to stick together to help fight, and find a cure. Every little bit helps us move closer to finding cures, as well as helping those in need right now, from providing information to answer their questions, to making sure they have a ride to treatments, and so much more. You are making a difference.

– Heather Padula, Branch Operations Supervisor

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