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Relay for Life Fosters Culture of Hope

June 26, 2005 — This year the V.I. chapter of the American Cancer Society had a new theme for its annual Relay for Life event: "building a culture of hope" in the race for a cure. With that goal in mind, children and their parents, survivors and their families, and supporters all gathered together at the Charlotte Amalie High School track to be a part of a very special Saturday.
"It’s overwhelming to see such an outpouring of love from the community for its survivors," Diana Parker, chairman of the ACS Survivors Committee, said. "It’s wonderful support…Relay for Life is all about remembering, celebrating, and finding a way to stop cancer."
Parker, who helped to open the event on Saturday, did her part to remember friend Vivica DeCastro, a former member of the survivors committee, who passed away on the opening day of last year’s relay.
"She had kind, sparkling eyes and a bright smile until the day she passed," Parker said, adding that the ACS uses memories such as these as continuing inspiration for its work.
Speeches given at the event by survivors Michael Farrington and Kenisha Crossley were also an inspiration to participants.
Crossley, 15, is this year’s ACS poster child. She was shy as she took the stage on Saturday but smiled frequently at M.C. Renee Roker as he addressed the audience. Mother Avon Crossley was invited to share her daughter’s story and moved many in the audience to tears.
"Two years ago Kenisha was suffering from minor stomach pains," Crossley said, "so we took her to the doctor. After many tests, we found out that she had a tumor in one of the muscles … and a form of cancer, which is the third rarest in the world. She began chemotherapy last October at a facility in Miami, and after that we came back to St. Thomas."
After living on island for a few months, however, the Crossley family discovered that there had been a reoccurrence.
"Kenisha is young, active, and pretty healthy," her mother said, "and the cancer came back. It has been a struggle … she’s undergone two rounds of chemotherapy, one every 10 months, and we’ve had a number of close calls, but Kenisha has shown us that there is hope and strength to continue."
Michael Farrington, the keynote speaker and another cancer survivor, also shared a touching story of hope. Diagnosed with colon cancer, Farrington had to undergo treatment at a center in Virginia, where he also had to have extensive surgery.
"During my time there," said Farrington, "I made a friend named Robert, and everyday we would sit together around 10:15 in the morning and talk about various things. Robert was also very enthusiastic about playing the lottery, so he asked me to give him three numbers and told me that when he won, we would share the money. So I gave him 3-7-57 … that’s my birthday."
Farrington continues, "Everyday Robert would tell me that he would put in for the numbers, but of course we didn’t win. After six weeks of getting to know each other, before I had my first surgery, we exchanged phone numbers, and when we called each other, we would always talk about having lunch."
Due to the effects of the surgery, however, Farrington ended up spending almost a month in the hospital, and his wife would bring news of Robert and his progress.
"When I came out and was finally ready to have lunch with him, I received a phone call from Robert’s wife saying that he had passed away … That was one of the most devastating moments of my life," Farrington concluded.
An employee at the Department of Public Works, Farrington dedicated his speech to Robert and urged others to support loved ones with the disease.
"I got phone calls every night while I was away," Farrington said, "and that’s what I really needed because the fight was in myself."
This year's relay, the fourth annual, began at the high school track at 9 a.m. with the Survivor’s Walk — led by the Love City Leapers — and concluded after the luminary ceremony at 11 p.m. Members of the CAHS marching band also led survivors, family, and friends during the luminary ceremony, spurring applause and tears from other spectators.
"This year’s event is the biggest we’ve had yet," team recruitment coordinator Therese Hodge said. "We have 101 teams! It’s wonderful to see what the community can do."
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