Carey hosts cancer survivors at Relay for Life

Franklin Square family continues Paint Your World tradition in cancer fight

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More than 400 residents settled in for a night to remember and to support those who have lost their lives to cancer, those who continue to battle it and those who have survived, as H. Frank Carey High School hosted its fourth Paint Your World Purple: Relay for Life Cancer Walk event on June 1. The Relay for Life is a global fundraising event where communities join together to walk around a track or path all night long and gain sponsors to donate money to the American Cancer Society. Carey housed 39 teams on its fields, who all set up tents and chairs as team members relayed back and forth in order to have at least one member on the track at all times until the following morning, as specified in the event’s guidelines.  

“Cancer doesn’t take a night off, and tonight, neither will we,” said Nicholas Brusca, the Carey High School senior who spearheaded the event at the school.

Brusca was only a small child when he lost two of his grandparents to cancer. His mother, Elizabeth, said that her parents would always help babysit her four children, and it was in their grandparents’ honor that the Brusca siblings led the annual event as they reached their respective senior years. The Bruscas organized the Relays in 2009, 2012, 2015 and now 2018.    

Brusca — along with a planning committee composed of students, school faculty and community members — began planning for this Relay for Life late last year. He described the months of planning as a series of phone calls to gather support from the local community, followed by the formation of teams and the collection of money. The committee was also able to partner with the local nonprofit Rock Out Cures, Inc., which plays benefit concerns in Franklin Square to raise money for cancer research and patient support. Their annual concerts raise more than $70,000.  

“Cancer is the one thing that changes everyone’s lives,” James Gangone, the vice-president of Rock Out Cures, Inc., said.   

The Carey Dads’ Club was another community group that helped with the Relay as they set up their shack on the field to provide snacks, dinner and breakfast for the participants. All the proceeds went to support the Relay. Rob Brusco, Nicholas’ father and president of the Dads’ Club, said he was proud of his four children for leading the Relays, and described the events as getting bigger and bigger each time.

“It’s exciting when the community gets together like this,” Lucy Pitz, a survivor and leader of the I Love Lucy Team, said. “It’s really overwhelming.”

Pitz is a survivor of breast cancer, and along with the other survivors and those currently battling cancer, she took the first lap at the Relay for Life. During the second lap, her daughter, Lauren — one of the main student organizers of the Relay — joined her. Lauren was in third grade when her mother first developed breast cancer, and she remembered the confusion that she felt as she watched the side effects of Lucy’s cancer and chemotherapy. Although Lauren didn’t fully understand what was going on back then, she was relieved when her mother recovered in 2008.

“We were lucky to get her back,” Lauren said.

The experience went on to shape Lauren’s life as she realized that she was not alone in having a family member or friend who had battled cancer. Ever since her mother’s recovery, she wanted to help cancer patients and will now go on to study biomedical engineering this fall at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. She wants to specialize in making prosthetics for cancer patients.    

By the morning of June 2, the Relay managed to raise more than $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. Karine McGuiness, one of the two teachers coordinating the Relay, stayed at Carey throughout the entire event. She commented on the uniting nature of the Relay, which brings together people from all walks of life for a single night to fight cancer.

“Everyone here has been touched by cancer in some way,” McGuiness said. “It’s the one thing we all have in common.”