Hundreds gathered to march around the track at Calhoun High School on April 24 as Bellmore-Merrick kicked off its first Relay for Life event.
Despite the unseasonably cold temperatures, the event brought warmth and hope as it helped raise more than $75,000 for the American Cancer Society.
The opening ceremony of the 12-hour overnight event featured remarks from the Relay for Life student committee and an impassioned speech from Calhoun 10th-grader Holden Smith, who recently fought and beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma. From there, survivors, including Smith, gathered on the track and took the ceremonial first lap behind a Relay for Life banner before they were joined by family members, caregivers and participants.
The event was the brainchild of students Adam Myers, Michael Jean and Matthew Koffler. In honor of Calhoun teacher Doug Smestad, who is currently battling liver cancer, this core group of students, known as “Smestad’s Knights,” approached district administrators last year and began the planning stage. Relay advisor Wendy Simson worked with Relay for Life specialist Sarah Sobel on getting the event off the ground. During the opening ceremony, Sobel presented Myers, Jean, Koffler and Christine Collins with certificates for their outstanding service in organizing the relay.
Highlights of the evening included a soaring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by student Alaina Anderson, a performance by Calhoun alumnus and former “American Idol” contestant Robbie Rosen, live performances from the bands “Wait for It” and “Calhoun’s Crescendo,” and the luminaria ceremony of candle-lit lanterns lined up along the track.