Gussie Sanzillo blinked back tears as she addressed a crowd of about 50 at Monday night’s kickoff for Somers Relay for Life, held at the Somerfields restaurant.
This year’s theme of the annual cancer research fundraiser is “The Caregiver,” and Sanzillo spoke about the complicated demands that can come with caring for a loved one with the disease.
“When [my husband] Frank was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t stop thinking about the what-ifs. It was endless, the things you never had to think about before,” said Sanzillo, a Somers resident.
Caregivers can feel guilty when they’re unable to fully maintain the pre-cancer status quo, she said.
“We need to be there for one another, because caregiving can be emotionally and physically draining,” Sanzillo said. “As a caregiver, I relay because Frank survived.”
The meeting, which lasted just under an hour, was a a chance for Somers Relay for Life co-chairwoman Carol Cirieco and Mary Beth Murphy to address volunteers and outline the rules for fundraising and setting up teams for the event. Somers Relay for Life will be held at Somers Middle School on June 1-2.
Murphy said she was glad many volunteers had returned for a second year. Last year’s inaugural Relay for Life in Somers raised about $115,000 and had 40 teams participate.
“Many of you are repeat offenders,” Murphy said, laughing. “We’re very happy to have not only our experienced folks but new faces as well.”
The kickoff included hors d’oeuvres, free handouts like Relay for Life-themed Silly Bandz and luminaria bags and a video on the value of the caregiver.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I always get a little teary-eyed watching that,” Murphy said.
Relay for Life teams can have a maximum of 15 participants, and each member must raise at least $100 to participate.
The first team leader meeting will be held March 5 at the Van Tassell House in Somers. For more information, contact Cirieco at email@example.com or Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somers, voted “Rookie of the Year” last year for its Relay for Life by the New York State chapter of the American Cancer Society, has a reputation to uphold, Cirieco joked.
“We want to be the best,” she said. “John Jay is out to get us. The challenge is on.”