The track at Lynbrook South Middle School gets a ton of use — whether it be members of the Owls track team or locals taking advantage of a nice day, the area is seldom empty.
Saturday was no different as residents gathered to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society at the sixth annual Lynbrook/East Rockaway Relay for Life.
Relay teams set up tents and tables surrounding the track. Some were selling bracelets or baked goods. Others were there to lend support to those who have been affected by the disease.
Participants were encouraged to walk around the track in honor of those who have beaten cancer or in remembrance of those who fell victim to it.
The walk began with a "survivor lap." Walkers who had beaten cancer were cheered on as they completed the emotional starting stroll.
At the front on the line was Alex Buttgereit.
Buttgereit, a sixth grader at South Middle School, is currently fighting acute lymphocytic leukemia. He was diagnosed in March of 2011.
"I want to tell everyone 'thank you' for your messages of support," Buttgereit said. "Last year, I was able to go to graduation and the fifth-grade party."
According to Buttgereit, his treatments, which will last for the next two years, are going well.
The relay continued with the second lap, during which survivors were joined by their caregivers.
Once the sun had set, walkers lit luminarias surrounding the track. The luminarias, which are white bags with a candle inside, were purchased in memory of those who have lost the battle or in honor of those who are still fighting it.
"We remember all of them, we love them all, we celebrate them and we're here tonight to fight back for them," American Cancer Society Director of Special Events Judy Wichter said.
The journey toward a highly successful afternoon began in January when local organizers started to raise initial funding for the event. Event Chairman Adam Glickman raised $16,724 (as of Saturday morning) through events such as "Relay Night" at a Long Island Ducks game and a promotion with .
Glickman lost his father to cancer seven years ago.
"Cancer touches all of us," Glickman said. "Everyone knows someone who has had this disease or is someone who has suffered from it. That is our common bond and that is why it is crucial for us to do our share to put this horrible disease to rest."
Susan O’Brien and Fred Faust were also the top individual fundraisers.
Hours after the opening ceremony and survivor lap were completed, the track was still full. Even though light was only provided by the candles, no one seemed to mind.
"I think [the community] did an amazing job," Wichter said. "I've been doing this event in Lynbrook for three years, and this is by far the best one yet."