WAILUKU - More than 400 student participants and their adult chaperones gathered at the War Memorial Athletic Complex on Feb. 18-19 to celebrate the tenth annual Maui Youth Relay For Life.
The community service project raised over $50,000 for the American Cancer Society.
This year's event was coordinated by the Student Council of Lahainaluna High school under the guidance of general Chairperson Leslie Garo, who was assisted by Junna Gazmen and Francisco Salgado-Jimenez. Student activities coordinator for Lahainaluna, Art Fillazar, served as advisor along with Pam Webster, community manager development for the Maui/Lanai/Molokai ACS office.
With the theme of "Rock And Roll Relay," the evening opened with a presentation by the JROTC Color Guards from Baldwin High School, while the national and state anthems were sung by a quartet from Lahainaluna.
West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker, as well as Jackie Young, chief executive officer for the Hawaii-Pacific Region of the ACS, also offered supportive remarks.
Other entertainers included musical groups from Maui Preparatory Academy, Seabury Hall, Baldwin High School and Lahainaluna. Special guest performers were the Chestermere High School Jazz Band visiting from Alberta, Canada.
Over 60 survivors, caregivers and guests were recognized by the committee and honored during the opening laps and a hosted dinner coordinated by the Saint Anthony High School National Honor Society.
A poignant Luminaria Ceremony led by students honored those who passed away due to cancer, as well as those who are survivors of the illness. In the darkness, participants raised special purple penlights as they walked around the relay track in solemn procession.
Later, guest speaker Tricia Adams, a mother of two from Laie, Oahu, discussed her battle and how she is a survivor. She challenged the attendees to fight back against cancer. A special banner was to be signed by each student with a note about how they would fight the disease.
Adams is Hawaii's selection to the 2012 Heroes Of Hope project, which recognizes outstanding advocates of the Relay For Life program. Adams' travel was hosted by Sen. Baker, Vincent Paiva of the Maui Seaside Hotel and Tanya Kapaku, representing AVIS Rent-A-Car. Tricia's husband, Owen, accompanied her, and Adams' younger brother, Roberto, was also part of the Maui organizing team. He is the community manager-development for the Manoa/UH Relay for Life programs.
Throughout the evening and early morning, participants braved the windy conditions and lower temperatures by participating in a host of events, such as Zumba, country line dancing, an Air Band and Pokemon karaoke contests, as well as a number of games and activities from the Wellness Activity Center coordinated by Lahainaluna's HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) club under the leadership of Jesselee Chapman, with help from volunteer nurses Phoebe Gabuat and Melford Lazarte, a 2005 LHS graduate.
The Maui youth event was the first relay for the year among the Hawaii-Pacific Region of the American Cancer Society. Maui's next community relays will be held this summer in Central and West Maui. Contact the Maui Office of the American Cancer Society at 244-5554 or visit www.relayforlife.com for event dates and how to register.