For Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception Parish, cancer is a topic that hits very close to home.
“There’s almost nobody who hasn’t been touched by cancer. So many of our parishioners have had cancer themselves, had relatives die of cancer or are going through it right now,” said Mercy Sister Elise Quigley, the parish’s former pastoral associate who now serves as secretary-receptionist. “So they all give very generously.”
The giving noted by Sister Quigley refers to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, held July 9-10 at the Ithaca High School track. Immaculate Conception raised $10,532.03 for the annual event — the highest total among the nearly 100 teams that participated. It was also the highest figure ever raised by the parish, surpassing last year’s previous best of $8,900.
The Relay for Life began at 5:30 p.m July 9 and ended at mid-morning the next day. Sister Quigley was part of a parish relay team that also included Father Leo Reinhardt, pastor; Barbara Manning; Cookie and Rudy Paolangeli; Paul Alexander; Vi Amici; Pat G. Ciaschi; Lorraine Pruitt; Monica and Greg Wesley; Kathleen Orzino; Joanne Fiorino; and Mariette Geldenhuys.
Festivities began with a cancer survivors’ dinner, followed by a survivors’ walk around the track. “You see little children walking around in survivors’ shirts, and it really does something to you,” Sister Quigley said.
Other laps were walked in honor of people who had quit smoking; for caregivers of those with cancer; and for teams to display the banners they had made. Later in the evening, at 10 p.m., a luminary walk featured approximately 4,000 luminaries lit in honor of those who have died of cancer or are survivors. Sister Quigley noted that a number of luminaries were positioned to spell out the word “hope,” then repositioned to spell “cure.” The Immaculate Conception Parish choir provided music during this segment.
The relay went all through the night, with at least one relay-team member required to be on the track at all times. Sister Quigley observed that only a handful of participants walked the entire event this year, although she did walk for 10 hours two years ago.
This marked Sister Quigley’s fifth year of participation in the Relay for Life, and the fourth for Immaculate Conception Parish. Sparking this year’s fundraising effort was a friendly competition between Sister Quigley and Father Reinhardt to see who could raise the higher total — Sister Quigley won, $3,157 to $2,507.03. Overall, the Relay for Life had raised approximately $210,000 as of its conclusion, with matching gifts expected to increase that total.