The Orangetown Relay for Life began as the family of Carolyn Sullivan was looking for ways to keep her memory alive.
Carolyn Sullivan was eight years old when she passed away after a five-month battle with a brain tumor Sept. 24, 2009.
"The first (Orangetown Relay for Life) was the following June, shortly after her passing, so it was a no-brainer at that point that we should do something in memory of her," said Jeanne Sullivan, Carolyn's mother. "We got a huge turnout, which was nice. It was a really nice night."
The Orangetown Relay for Life, held on the Central Avenue Field in Pearl River, is in its third year of honoring people whose lives have been touched by cancer and raising money for the American Cancer Society. This year's relay is scheduled to run from 7 p.m. Friday June 15 to 7 a.m. Saturday June 16.
Participants come and go throughout the relay, which makes it easier to take part.
"However it works into your schedule," Jeanne Sullivan said. "Some can only come the next morning for a bit. Some come after a party or before an event. It has been a nice thing. I think the kids enjoy it a lot. I know mine do."
The event is family-friendly, drawing large groups of students, including many in Carolyn Sullivan's age group.
"Her age group, the 11-year-olds, it is fun for them to feel like they are doing something, to be part of something," Jeanne Sullivan said.
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Team Carolyn has been a key part of the relay since that first year, bringing by far the largest group of participants.
"Last year, I think we may have had more people," Jeanne Sullivan said. "WE had over 200 pre-register and a lot more joined in that night."
She said they signed up last week for the event. Teams and individuals can register at the Orangetown Relay for Life website here.
"A number of people asked if we are doing it," Sullivan said. "It's a nice night. You can get together for a while and participate. It had a nice feel to it the last two years."
Team Carolyn has been so closely identified with the Orangetown Relay for Life that some think it is a fundraiser for them, though all money raised from the relay goes to the American Cancer Society.
Sullivan said anybody is welcome to walk with Team Carolyn, though she said they prefer if people pre-register.
"We buy t-shirts for the team. Anybody who pre-registers, we buy them a t-shirt, too," Sullivan said. "It's like they get the money to register back. We like to see everybody wearing the shirts. We see them all year round.
The Carolyn Sullivan Foundation has also grown over the last two years. The foundation offers aid to families of children facing catastrophic illnesses. As of January of this year, they had helped nine such families. They held their second annual winter get-together in January and the Celebrate Carolyn Family Fun Day Sept. 24, 2011. For more information on the Carolyn Sullivan Foundation, go to http://carolynsullivanmf.com/.
Their support also helped the Orangetown Relay for Life, which raised $65,000 last year. Rockland County Legislator John Murphy, one of the event founders and co-chair the last two years, said that there were 600 walkers and 1,200 attendees at the 2011 Orangetown Relay for Life despite many people staying home due to heavy rains earlier in the day and the threat of more.
Pearl River Little League President Joan Bourke has taken over as chair of this year's Orangetown Relay for Life. For more information or to register for this year's relay, go to www.relayforlife.org/orangetownny.
The next Orangetown Relay for Life Team Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 14 at Pearl River Public Library.