Lombardi Column: More birthdays are goal of Relay for Life

Happy birthday! You’ve just turned 5 and you’re thinking about starting school — getting on that big yellow bus with your 8-year-old brother.

All of a sudden it’s your ninth birthday and a bright red two-wheeler is a gift from Grandpa. Turn around and you’re 16. Maybe a summer job awaits you. And certainly a driver’s license is right around the corner.

Later, so much more sophisticated, you celebrate birthday 35. Now you may assume the United States presidency. But only if you want to.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, you’re in your 60s. You’re hearing words like retirement, Social Security, Medicare. I suppose it’s at this time most North Forkers begin to think birthdays have come and gone too quickly. And wouldn’t fewer birthdays be a good idea — maybe birthdays arriving only every four or five years.

Strangely, a heck of a lot of North Forkers would disagree. Not only do we not have enough birthdays, they argue, they want to give us more. These folks, found in communities from Riverhead to Orient, work tirelessly to provide “a world with more birthdays.” That’s their motto, their motivation. Right now they’re going into high gear. There’s a great big birthday party coming up.

Everyone’s invited, of course. Location? Jean Cochran Park on Peconic Lane in Peconic. Date? June 4 and 5, 2011. Two dates because the party’s a sleepover, if you wish. Guess you know by now this party is Southold Town’s annual Relay for Life (there’s no event planned for Riverhead this year). That’s the American Cancer Society’s way to celebrate survivors, to remember those who have passed on, to fight back with every ounce of strength, with every nickel and dime pledged to beat cancer.

Annual Relays for Life occur all over this wonderful world. Millions of people are involved. But I tell you this. Having participated in the Southold relay for several years (I’m on the Banking on a Cure team from Suffolk County National Bank in Cutchogue), I can’t imagine any relay, any place, any better. By the way, there are more that 30 teams in Southold’s relay.

This year Southold’s Relay is a birthday party with a carnival theme. In addition to the night-long relay around the track, there’ll be all kinds of carnival stuff like rides and clowns. Plus the birthday party trappings.

Yes, you’ll find balloons and food, lots of it. Survivors are even invited to a dinner. This year it’s the gift of Greenport’s Porto Bello restaurant. Dessert? A great big sheet cake from Junda’s Pastry in Jamesport. Cut­chogue’s Chuck and Judi Mogul are heading up the food festivities. The dinner’s held in a monster tent set up in the park.

And what’s a birthday without candles? Not the tiny ones we struggle to blow out after we make a wish. This birthday party has luminaria lining the track after dark. That’s a heart-thumping sight for sure. You know, with one big breath, all North Forkers just might create enough energy to carry away cancer. It’s worth a try. Cathy and Wayne Dries of Mattituck sure hope so. They head the luminaria committee.

And games. A birthday party’s gotta have games. Remember playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Put on a blindfold, spin around a few times, and then walk directly to a big picture of a donkey and try to pin a tail where the tail should be. Possibly beating cancer is exactly like this game. It may seem as if we’re going around in circles and perhaps we’re blind, at the moment, to cures. But oh, yes, someday, somehow, some folks are gonna get cancer by the tail and whirl it to oblivion. Gone. Forever. Another donkey off our back.

Every party needs music. And Relay for Life is no exception. From Saturday afternoon, through the dark night, into Sunday sunrise, there’s music. North Fork bands, singing groups, soloists — all entertain. And you know who bagpipes us around the track as darkness descends and luminaria light the way? TimesReview’s very own Tim Kelly. An experience to be cherished always. Sandra Lazar, who works on Love Lane in Mattituck, heads the entertainment committee. What a job that is!

So survivors will don their special T-shirts. Caregivers will be cheered by North Forkers who seem to be cheering for life itself. And those North Forkers raising money for a cure will dance, eat, sing, play games and relay the night away. Email [email protected] and join those who know full well “the slightest force can move the greatest weight given sufficient time.” They’ll be walkin’ in faith and with force around that track. It’s only a matter of time.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.