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Local Sisters Set to Stomp it Out at F.C. Relay for Life Saturday

relaylifesistersThere is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. For the three Darling sisters of Falls Church this is a fair statement. Most days they are a family united, but during the upcoming Relay for Life in Falls Church this weekend, held at their own George Mason High School track, they are individuals, competing on differing Relay for Life teams known as the Pink Ladies, Rexicon (a cross between a T-Rex and a Unicorn, of course) and the Hobbits.

 

relaylifesisters

LOCAL SISTER ACT (left to right), Sabine Darling, Noelle Darling and Camille Darling, are all set to compete against each other at this Saturday’s Relay for Life in Falls Church. (Photo: News-Press)

 

There is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. For the three Darling sisters of Falls Church this is a fair statement. Most days they are a family united, but during the upcoming Relay for Life in Falls Church this weekend, held at their own George Mason High School track, they are individuals, competing on differing Relay for Life teams known as the Pink Ladies, Rexicon (a cross between a T-Rex and a Unicorn, of course) and the Hobbits.

The annual Falls Church Relay for Life raises funds to fight cancer, bringing together teams of people from all walks of life who share the common commitment to fight the disease, celebrate the lives of survivors and remember those lost along the way.

For the Darling girls it is a family affair. Each girl is unique in her own right. They describe each other with affection, laughing at the labels. Camille, the eldest, they deem “the most outgoing,” while Sabine with her knee in a brace, due to an injury that sadly put her out of soccer for the season, is considered “the nice one” and Noelle, the youngest, is judged as “the smart one.”

Even with these differences, these girls are united in their passion for the Relay for Life. No one is forcing these girls to commit their time to the cause; in fact they enjoy the autonomy. “You can easily make a team with your friends and not have to rely on your parents for help,” says Sabine.

This is part of the allure of Relay, that is gives families, neighbors and students the opportunity to team up and bond for a shared goal. In a time when neighbors are likely to engage a ‘mind your own business’ mentality, this event is the antithesis of isolation. “The event pulls the community together for a common cause,” said Camille. The Relay also acts to gain publicity, as another benefit of the Relay for Life is the attention the event brings to the fight, forcing cancer into the light. “It’s a great opportunity to gain a new understanding of the importance of finding a cure, as well as the importance of having hope in the search,” says Noelle.

As the girls look forward to the 2010 Relay for Life, the race actually originated years earlier. In 1985 Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon in Tacoma, Washington originated the Relay for Life when he ran and walked around a track to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Now, according to the American Cancer Society each year more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the U.S., along with additional communities in 19 other countries around the globe, gather to take part in this world-wide phenomenon.

Back in the earlier years another Darling walked the night to end cancer. In fact, the Relay for Life itself is a tradition handed down through the generations. “My grandma, who lives in Illinois, had been a part of Relay for a while, until she had knee surgery and could no longer walk very much. I sort of took the Relay on for her so that the Darling family would still be involved somehow,” said Camille. Proudly, the girls are third generation Relay for Life walkers.

Even as teenagers the girls already have stories of cancer’s invasion into their young lives. “Two of my best friends’ mothers had breast cancer and I’ve seen the affect it had on the family of the sick person. It’s a lingering pain when someone you know is a victim,” said Noelle.

For Camille cancer first struck when she was a little girl. “My godmother died from breast cancer when I was young. Since then five of my friends have had parents who had or have cancer. Seeing my friends’ face the fear that they may lose a parent is hard to bear. I can only imagine how terrifying that must be…,” said Camille.

Honoring survivors, remembering those lost to the disease and empowerment are catalysts of three Relay for Life rituals. First is the Survivors Lap, which is a celebration of success, as survivors circle the track acknowledging their victory over cancer.

Possibly the most emotional ceremony is the lighting of the Luminaria when, at dusk, candles are lit inside bags filled with sand. Each bag bears the name of a person touched by cancer or lost to the disease. Participants walk a lap in silence to remember those individuals. “I’m looking forward to the Luminaria ceremony. It’s really moving and really makes you think about why we’re all doing it in the first place,” said Noelle.

And finally the Fight Back ceremony is uplifting, full of the thrill of empowerment as each participant makes a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer.

During the 12 hour event, volunteers enjoy participating in the events, mingling while raising their tents. Walkers will camp out at the George Mason High School track, ensuring that at least one team member is on the track at all times, even through the night and into the wee hours of morning dubbed the “Zombie Shift.” The American Cancer society says that the fundraiser continues through the night because “cancer never sleeps.”

As for sleeping under the bright lights of the track, participant’s plans vary. Some will sleep. “I can usually sleep anywhere, even on the field under the bright lights. However, I do have exceptional sleeping skills,” said Camille.

Some just plan to stay up all night long. “I think everyone is going to try to pull an all-nighter,” said Sabine.

Some are just plain undecided. “I’m not sure if I will sleep at all, but there will be a tent should I want to use it,” said Noelle.

If not sleeping, participants maybe snacking instead. To sustain them, people are bringing the basics like pretzels and water. Others utilize a more convenient form of nourishment. “We’re ordering pizza, which they’ll deliver at 11 or 11:30 p.m., so that will be our main meal,” said Sabine. Some teams set up last minute bake sales to reach goals, which may serve as dessert.

In the end, the most important reason people participate in the Relay for Life is personal. Yes it is an opportunity to socialize with friends and family, but more importantly it sends a message about caring for others, lending a helping hand at a difficult time and the powerful dedication to find a cure.

“I like being together with my friends who have parents who are battling cancer and letting them know that they have us who love and support them,” said Camille.

For more information about the Relay for Life or to make a donation, visit fallschurchrelay.org.