Twelve Year Old from Virginia Beach Walks 41 Miles Overnight to Relay For Life; Effort Symbolizes a Cancer Patient’s Journey
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA– May 29, 2013 – Earlier this month, about 2,400 area residents walked the track at Cox High School to symbolize the journey of a person diagnosed with cancer as part of the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Virginia Beach. In the crowd was Nick Birckhead, 12, of Virginia Beach, who began walking at six in the evening on Saturday and completed 164 laps – 41 miles – around the track in memory of his grandfather. His accomplishment made his mother, Rebecca Wilfong, proud and garnered Birckhead with a trophy for walking the most laps and a new pair of sneakers donated by Rack Room Shoes.
The overnight event drew a strong crowd despite the overcast and often, rainy weather and raised more than $330,000 for the American Cancer Society. Organizers planned the friendly competition of most laps around the track to keep participants walking the track from sunset to dawn, an experience that parallels the physical and emotional stages a cancer patient often faces.
The setting sun symbolizes when a person is diagnosed with cancer, and as the day turns darker, it reflects the patient’s state of mind as they face an unknown journey. By midnight, participants walking the track are tired and want to take a break from walking, similar to cancer patients starting treatment, becoming exhausted and sick, and wanting to give up. Just as a cancer patient doesn’t stop their treatment, a Relay participant pushes through and keeps walking. Once daybreak begins to shed light on the track, walkers are exhausted, but know an end is in sight and make their final laps around the track, just as a cancer patient has hope and motivation to make it through their treatment and see a new day – one without cancer.
Wilfong has been participating in Relay For Life for a few years, and Birckhead asked to join her team, “Hope for Angels” this year to help honor his grandfather and great grandmother, who lost their lives to cancer. The team celebrates Birckhead’s step-grandmother, a breast cancer survivor.
“Relay For Life brings our communities together for a single purpose, fighting cancer,” said Elisa Wills, area executive director for the American Cancer Society. “Relay provides us with an unequivocal opportunity for sharing compassion with one another and for having hope for a future without cancer.”
Their success is vital to the American Cancer Society and its efforts to finish the fight against cancer: Relay For Life has become the largest fundraising event in the world and now raises more than $400 million each year. Funds raised at Relay events support the Society’s investment in cancer research and its support of a wealth of information, programs and services to assist cancer patients and caregivers. Cancer prevention, detection and treatment breakthroughs funded by the American Cancer Society have led to 14 million cancer survivors in the United States who will celebrate birthdays this year.
For more information on Relay For Life, to sign up to participate in a Relay or to find a Relay event near you, visit relayforlife.org. The Relay For Life of Virginia Beach is still accepting donations at relayforlife.org/virginiabeachva.
Photo Caption: Nick Birckhead and his mother, Rebecca Wilfong, of Virginia Beach. Photo credit: George Brickhouse.