The mood is always up when we first get there. Everybody is settling in, storing their stuff, grabbing a bite of dinner, chatting and catching up. Before you know it, it's time for the opening ceremonies. Always a tear jerker. This year an 11 year old girl got up to tell the story of her battle with cancer. I'm still in awe of how poised she was speaking in front of hundreds of people. There were more than a few tears shed. We hold hands and hug and rub backs and just support each other.
The first lap of Relay is the Survivor's lap, another incredibly emotional moment. The teams line the track and we clap and cheer those survivors on. Then the teams walk, we've always walked that first lap together, watching for each others luminaries. This was Abby's first full out Relay experience and it all caught up with her 3/4's of the way through our first lap. That's the thing about Relay, you never know when those emotions are going to catch up with you.
Then we kind of fly by the seat of our pants. We don't have any kind of a schedule for walking, just walk whenever you feel like it. Between us girls and the guys and all the kids we always have someone out on the track walking, usually more than one someone. It's a very long night and there is not much else to do. Some of us nap through the night, but most of us stay up, walking. This year, inspired by the internet I brought a basket of photo props and the kids had an absolute blast with that.
The luminary ceremony happens at dusk and it's an emotional one as well. You might be able to hold it together while the candles are being lit, but I can't make it past the lights being turned out and that piper playing Amazing Grace. As you walk you come past people holding vigil near their loved ones luminaries, it's pretty intense. Abby and I walked that lap together, her squeezing my hand the whole time.
After that you head into quiet time. There's a movie playing on an inflatable screen, some folks hit their tents, but I've found it's easier to keep on walking. I try to walk with everyone on the team, I'm sure I fail miserably every year, but I try. If nothing else I visit and chat with my whole team, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all their hard work. Quiet time is nice, it's the middle of the night by that time and we're all getting a little punch drunk, which means we are the funniest people who have ever lived. It's lots of inappropriateness and laughing until you can't breathe. There's also heart to hearts and bonding and encouraging and lots of talk about how we can't wait to crawl into bed. It is physically demanding and we certainly earn every penny of support we receive.
Before you know it the sun is coming up and it's time for breakfast, then we clean up camp and walk our last laps. Our Junior Jerseys walked the last laps for us this year.
Then it's time for hugs and chatter about how we're going to raise even more money next year and then finally bed.... sweet sweet bed. It really is one of my favourite projects/events. I look forward to it every year and I'm so beyond happy with my team I can't even tell you. Plans are already well underway for next year's fundraising, $5000 here we come!