Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Relay For Life Testimonial

In May 2004, my family and I took part in our very first Relay For Life of Needham, Dedham and Wellesley. Temple Beth Shalom had invited congregants to participate in this important community event, and I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity for my family to honor my mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, and to support others who were fighting the disease.

Having never attended a Relay, I was overwhelmed by the emotional impact of the experience. Watching my mom walk around the track during the ‘Survivor’s Lap’ was truly moving and inspirational. At dusk, along with other participants, we lit ‘luminarias,” paper sacks filled with sand and candles that stretched around the walking track. I remember getting the chills as I stood looking at the hundreds of luminarias, each one representing someone who had been lost to cancer, who was fighting the disease or who had survived the illness. I thought about the courageous five-year battle that my mother had been waging against cancer and felt grateful to be there with her, sharing in a very special event with our family, our temple and the local community.

The following year my family and I participated in the Relay again, only then we were walking in memory of my mother, who had lost her valiant fight against cancer. More than ever, I truly understood the devastation that cancer can cause, not only to those who battle this horrible disease but also to their loved ones.

In 2008, I joined the Relay For Life Planning Committee to honor my mother, to take a more active role in the fight against cancer and to inspire others to do the same. Unbelievably, that same year, my friend Adam May was diagnosed with prostate cancer and began intensive treatment. Adam and I formed our first Relay team that winter, and it was a life-changing experience for us both. With other friends, we proudly raised nearly $35,000 for the programs and services of the American Cancer Society. And at the Relay, we found healing, comfort and support from others who have faced cancer or who have lost a loved one to the disease. We’ve stayed actively involved in the Relay ever since.

This year, Adam and I wanted to share our passion for Relay with TBS in the hope of involving even more members of our community in this sacred effort. As Rabbi Markley explained in a Shabbat Shalom email a few months ago, “Our Rabbis reminded us of why our involvement in causes like this one is so very important:

For this reason Adam, the first human being, was created as a single person, to teach you that anyone who destroys one soul is described in Scripture as if he destroyed an entire world, and anyone who sustains one soul is described as if he sustained an entire world… (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)

Our efforts at this year’s Relay may, indeed, make possible the research, the learning, the wisdom, and the understanding that will save not just one, but hundreds and thousands of worlds in the years ahead.”

This year’s Relay will take place on May 14–15 at the Newman Elementary School in Needham. We invite you to register to join the TBS and Friends team, or if you prefer, to support us with a donation or the purchase of a luminaria. To do so, please visit

Also, plan now to join us and other Relay participants for a special Havdallah service at on Saturday, May 14 at 8 pm, which will be led by Rabbi Markley. We’ll be meeting near the Newman tennis courts, on the side near the track.

For more details about the Relay For Life, please visit the TBS website at

I hope you'll join Adam, me, Rabbi Markley and other temple members and friends at the Relay on May 14.

-Sabra Sherry

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