Galloway Township resident Kathleen O'Beirne, diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2005 made a point of walking, alongside friends and family, in the University of Massachusetts' cancer walk in Worcester each year until her death in 2011.
Last year, Kathy's Crew - as her UMass walking team was known - didn't have to travel quite so far to fight the disease that took their her life, walking in Assumption Regional Catholic School's first annual Relay Recess, which was held in O'Beirne's honor.
On Feb. 21 in Galloway Township, Assumption held the kickoff assembly for students for its 2013 event, which will take place at the school on April 19 from 2-8 p.m.
Carol Guerrieri, O'Beirne's mother, attended the kickoff event. She said it's an honor that the school is participating in memory of her daughter.
"I think it's wonderful that they've continued to remember Kathleen by doing this," Guerrieri said. "It's nice for us to have this remembrance of her every year. It's been important to our family."
Relay Recess is a kid-focused offshoot of Relay for Life, a national event benefiting the American Cancer Society established in 1985. As part of the event, teams collect pledges for a marathon relay walk, most instances of which last 24 hours. Relay Recess is version of the event shortened to be more appropriate for kids.
The event was brought to Assumption by teacher Lisa Colangelo, who had O'Beirne's daughter, Emma, as a student when she died. It was a surprise success at the school last year: Assumption set a goal of raising $4,000, but far exceeded that total with more than $20,000 raised.
That the campaign was organized and executed over just a month, a week of which was lost to Spring break, made the total doubly impressive, Colangelo said.
"We were overwhelmed by the generosity and support of our school, of our community," said Colangelo, who is a co-chair for the event. "We planned and came together, brought this event together in less that four weeks. It was overwhelming."
For the Feb. 21 kickoff event, Assumption students were given a presentation about the program by the American Cancer Society's Director of Special Events Ashley Colone, who works out of the society's Absecon office.
She discussed the history and importance of the program, and also touched on healthy habits students can learn that will lower their cancer risk.
With the kick-off event now in the past, preparations for the 2013 Relay Recess are under way. Colangelo and co-chair Cathryn Flammer have set a goal of raising $12,000. While this is no small feat for a school with just under 400 students spread from PreK-3 to 8th grade, Flammer said she believes the community can make it.
"We're not sure what's going to happen or what to expect, but we know we have a lot of generous families, and cancer hits home for everybody," said co-chair Cathryn Flammer.
Assumption is now looking for teams made up of community members and businesses to participate in the event. To sign up or to donate, call 609-652-7134 or contact Cathryn Flammer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lisa Colangelo at email@example.com.
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