Anita Johnson, left, and Carrie Pertak, who started the Relay for Life of Crown Point a year ago, now have an even greater stake in the event. Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer this spring and Pertak, her best friend, is her caregiver.
The second annual Relay for Life of Crown Point will be so much more than a benefit event for its co-chairwomen.
Anita Johnson and Carrie Pertak, who started the American Cancer Society fundrasier a year ago, now have an even greater stake in the relay. Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer this spring and Pertak, her best friend, is her caregiver.
“The relay, especially the survivors ceremony, is always very emotional,” Johnson said. “I think it’ll be even more emotional for me this year. It’s been quite an experience.”
The Relay for Life of Crown Point will be held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10 and 11, at Crown Point Central School. It will begin with a survivor ceremony at 7 p.m. Saturday followed by teams walking until 7 a.m. Sunday to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“I’ve always done relays, but this one will be different,” Pertak said. “Fortunately, I’d never had a loved one or someone I know diagnosed with cancer. I can’t say that anymore.”
Johnson had experienced unusual pain, but choose to ignore it until attending a Relay for Life workshop earlier this year. A speaker at the gathering stressed the importance of raising not only money, but awareness of cancer and the benefits of early detection.
“He said something like, ‘If the only thing Relay accomplishes is to get people to listen to their bodies and get things checked out when they think something is wrong, sooner, we have done our jobs’,” Johnson recalled.
Johnson called her doctor as soon as she got home from the workshop.
She was diagnosed May 2 and had a mastectomy May 16. She’s now receiving chemotherapy treatments that will be followed by radiation treatments.
“I hope to be cancer-free by Thanksgiving,” Johnson said, “but that seems like a very long way away.”
After Johnson told her husband about the diagnosis, her first call was to Pertak.
“Carrie and I have been friends since we were about 6, and we are very close,” Johnson said. “We work closely to bring Relay to our communities, and now, in addition to our friendship, she is one of my caregivers. She has been there for me and my family, and has taken on a lot of the responsibilities of our Relay event. She is not only a great community volunteer, but a great support for those of us who are facing hard times in life.”
The inaugural Relay for Life of Crown Point attracted 27 teams and about 500 people. It raised $40,000 for the American Cancer Society and was named the Capital District “Rookie of the Year” as the best of seven new relay events in the Albany area in 2012.
The goal in 2013 is to have more than 30 teams. There are 22 already registered and teams can up register until the beginning of the event. The registration fee is $10 a person in advance and $20 at the night of the relay. Teams can have any number of walkers.
The theme this year is “Mardi Gras” and teams are encouraged to dress the part, camp around the track and enjoy the event. There will be music through the night along with food and other entertainment.
Information is available online at www.relayforlife.org/crownpointny
“The Relay for Life will begin with a survivor ceremony at 7 p.m. for survivors to share a common experience with their community, and to celebrate with other survivors who have beat cancer or are currently fighting cancer,” Johnson said. “Survivors will join in a Survivor Lap and then have reception with a light meal and desserts, giveaways and prizes.”
Cancer survivors can sign up for the Survivor Lap at www.relayforlife.org/crownpointny or call Ursula Thompson, survivor committee chair at 585-9261.
While the Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society, money is a secondary goal.
“It’s not all about the money,” Johnson said. “A big part of it is to get people excited and educated about the Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.
“It’s kind of ironic that we started out to help the ACS (American Cancer Society) and now they’re helping me,” she added. “I’m certainly benefitting from what they do.”
Sponsoring the Relay for Life of Crown Point are Crown Point Telephone, Ticonderoga Federal Credit Union, Griffith Energy of Port Henry, Boyea’s Deli of Port Henry, Crown Point Central School, Geraw’s OK Septic Service, Mountain Lake Services, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, Kubricky Construction, the Crown Point Fire Department and DJ Marc Potter.
Relay organizers want their event to be regional. It carries the Crown Point name because the American Cancer Society requires relays to have the name of the host community.
“Last year we had people from Ticonderoga, Westport, Moriah, Putnam,” Pertak said. “We’d love to get more people to come. The more the better.”
Walking overnight can be difficult, Johnson said, but that’s the point.
“The relay is supposed to represent the struggle of a cancer patient,” she said. “It’s hard to be up walking at 3 a.m., but it’s hard to go through chemo treatments. Cancer is difficult, so is the relay.
“Cancer never sleeps,” Johnson said. “For one night, we don’t either.”
Assisting Johnson and Pertak on the Relay for Life of Crown Point are committee chairs Lloyd LaMotte, James Johnson, Penny Comes, Ursula Thompson, Beth Harp, Sandy Ross, Yvonne DuShane, Michaela Comes, Randy Pertak, Kolby Pertak, Holly Rollins and Brenda Speshock.