Flint Hill Upper School students take a stand against cancer

Reflection, remembrance, and strength.

These words have become synonymous with the Relay for Life events throughout the country, honoring and supporting the past and present fighters of cancer.

On Saturday, April 5, 96 Flint Hill students will arrive at George Mason University’s Recreational Athletic Complex in hopes of ending each and every type of cancer, walking together arm in arm, in a celebration of life.

For Cyndi Hoffman, Upper School biology teacher and leader of Flint Hill’s relay team, the event is especially personal. Hoffman introduced Relay for Life to the school two years ago in honor of her father, who passed away due to pancreatic cancer.

“As someone who has felt the loss that cancer can bring, I participate to honor the memory of my father who lost his battle in November 2009,” said Hoffman. “Relay for Life has helped me heal from the loss of my father in a way that only someone who has participated in the event can understand.”

The event has grown from 30 FHS participants in the first year to almost a hundred, highlighting the far-reaching and uniting effect of the disease.

Junior Claire Rodriguez, a team leader and two-time participant said, “It’s a great opportunity for us as a school to come together and fight cancer. The event is so memorable, and I like being able to raise money for a good cause.

At this year’s event, activities and ceremonies will take place in three separate areas, offering an array of opportunities for participants of all ages. One gym will house the main events and opening greeting, including an opportunity to continuously walk around the track to symbolize cancer as a disease that never sleeps. Two other locations will be utilized as quiet areas for sleeping, while another will be open during select times for games and fun for the younger walkers.

However, the activities throughout the night do not end with walking. Rather, sports, performances by bands, and a reflective time for remembrance will all constitute important aspects of the experience.

In a highly emotional luminaria ceremony that honors those who have lost their battle against cancer, participants light candles and stand arm in arm to pay respect to those who are now gone but never forgotten.

Junior Misha Wooden, who will be relaying for the second time, said, “It feels great to think that you’re making a difference. It’s amazing to celebrate the process we’re making towards ending cancer.”

Relay for Life provides a variety of outlets for all participants to express their emotions and aid in the fight, no matter how the disease has affected a particular individual. Spreading optimism and hope of an eventual cure for the disease in the future, it is a unique experience that depends on one’s own experiences with cancer.

“For those who have lost, it gives them a way to fight back against cancer,” said Hoffman. “For those who [have known] somebody [with cancer], it makes them feel like they’re making a difference and helping. Even if someone hasn’t been personally affected by cancer, Flint Hill is a compassionate community and wants to help out.”

For Relay as a whole, the ability to take a stand against this disease and prevent countless others from witnessing or experiencing the loss of a loved one is enough to make a nation and a school stand as one sharing a common goal.