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Relay for Life returns to Taneytown with a carnival atmosphere

The Carroll Vista Bird Club raised more than $14,000 for the Taneytown Relay for Life in 2018.
The Carroll Vista Bird Club raised more than $14,000 for the Taneytown Relay for Life in 2018. (Courtesy photo)

Relay for Life, the signature fundraising of the American Cancer Society, returns to Taneytown on Saturday, bringing with it a slew of games for families and kids.

The free event takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. in Memorial Park, and features a walking relay, and a survivor’s walk — but it’s a common misconception that it is just a walk, according to event co-chair Donna Rudolph.

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“Although we do have a track, for the most part it is a celebration of life,” she said. “We try to have some fun.”

This year, that fun will focus on getting children involved, both in the ceremonial aspects of the day, and specifically with child- and family-centered activities.

“We usually pick a theme for our relay, and this year it is Carnival for Hope,” Rudolph said. “We have 13 teams, and they are all doing some kind of a carnival game. There will be prizes for those games.”

A “fun flush,” for example, is similar to a dunk tank, Rudolph notes, except hitting the target with a ball means it sprays a person rather than dunking them in a tank of water.

“We are working on getting balloon twister, a juggler — we want to make it as fun as possible, and it is all free,” she said.

“I think people are going to enjoy this year because it’s all about the kids,” added co-chair Angela Bonarrigo, noting that in addition to the carnival games, a chorus of about 100 children from area schools will being singing during the event’s opening ceremony featuring cancer survivors.

And while organizers have tried to make the event as fun as possible, there will also be those somber and sacred moments, according to Bonarrido, such as the lighting of luminaria.

“What a luminaria is is it’s a bag and it’s lit and it’s in memory of those who haven’t made it, but also in honor of all the survivors and caregivers,” she said. “It’s a very moving and beautiful ceremony.”

And the core of the event will remain as well, fundraising teams keeping people walking around a track — in this case a field at the park — to raise money to help fund cancer research.

“People join up as teams, and the goal is you keep someone walking at all times,” Bonarrigo said. “I think we’re up to $50,000 so far.”

But anyone can come out for free even if they did not join a fundraising walk team, Rudolph said, and there will be opportunities to give at the event for those who choose to do so.

“We are putting out our relay purple buckets — every team will have one, and if people choose to donate in them that’s fine,” she said. “We will be selling 50/50 raffle tickets, and there will be a couple of major things to bid on if they like.”

Relay for Life walks are about raising awareness, solidarity and support as well as raising funds, and Bonarrigo said she hopes people will come out to celebrate regardless of whether they can donate.

“We’re trying to get the whole community of Taneytown together,” she said. “We hope everyone will come out and bring their kids — it’s free!”

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