Brooklyn preps for Relay for Life with ‘First Lap’ around the boro

people with signs for first lap relay for life
Elaine Delaney and other Brooklynites participated in #FirstLap, Relay for Life’s first event of the year, on Jan. 7.
Arthur De Gaeta

Relay For Life of Brooklyn is getting ready for their 25th annual race by getting their steps in and spreading awareness of the event with Relay First Lap. On Jan. 7, Relayers took an introductory “lap” around their homes, schools, and neighborhoods to prepare for the big day.

Elaine Delaney, chairperson for Relay For Life of Brooklyn, helped organize the kick-off at various Brooklyn schools including PS 186, where she serves as school captain. All classes from kindergarten to fifth grade took off around the schoolyard wielding celebratory posters.

people with signs for relay for life first lap
Brooklynites paraded around the borough with signs to spread the word about Relay for Life as part of First Lap. Arthur de Gaeta

“It’s just raising awareness, some people don’t know what Relay is,” she said.

Relay For Life, the world’s largest volunteer-based fundraising event, gives families a chance to honor loved ones who have passed from the disease while raising money to fund cancer research and support cancer patients. Each year, Relay teams raise money in the lead-up to the 24-hour event. On Relay day, participants and supporters gather for an all-night walk with music, somber moments to remember those who have passed, and a strong sense of community. 

Survivors are also invited out to the take the first lap of the race, followed by caregivers of cancer patients. Those who don’t want to race can still participate in the celebration by donating to a local fundraiser or purchasing a Luminaria to remember someone who has passed during the race. 

Another group of students at PS. 682 dedicated their first lap to one of their teachers who battled with cancer. As a two-time cancer survivor herself, Delaney says it’s important for those who have struggled with the disease to feel supported in their journey.

relay for life 2022
Relay for Life of Brooklyn raised more than $97,000 at their event last year, and organizer Elaine Delaney said donations don’t have to be large to make an impact. File photo by Arthur de Gaeta

“For me it’s remembering all those who have passed and honoring the survivors,” she said. “It’s also so important for people to reach out to the caregivers. We don’t often think ‘How’s the husband, how’s the kids?'”

Last year, the Brooklyn chapter of Relay for Life raised $21,000. As of Jan. 10, the group has raised $6,222.19 of their $100,000 goal, with more than 100 days to go until the June 10 event. Donations big and small make a big impact for Relay participants and the people they’re raising money to support. Last year, the group raised more than $97,000 in total. 

“Everyone thinks they have to raise thousands on their fundraisers but sometimes $100 is fine. You just got someone to and from their cancer treatments,” Delaney said.