Jeannette Ross photos
About 20 cancer survivors gathered behind an American Cancer Society Relay for Life banner that proclaimed “Survivors — Celebrating Life” to open Wilton’s Relay for Life event on Friday evening, June 2. Dayna Arnowitz was one of them.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, when her daughter Becky was just 4. Now a sixth grader at Middlebrook, Becky formed a team to participate in Relay for Life and called it Take a Bite Out of Cancer

The name came from the team’s desire to run bake sales to raise money for the cancer society, and they have done that and more. In addition to their bake sale table at Relay for Life, they also had a very popular water balloon tossing game. So far, Becky said, the team had raised $1,932.

Because Becky was so young when her mother developed cancer, she doesn’t remember much about it.

“She told me, ‘Mom, I’m doing this because I don’t remember what happened to you and I don’t want anyone else to have to remember it,’” Aronowitz said, adding, “I’m very lucky.”

She has participated in Relay for Life three or four times.

“I think it’s a great event. They raise so much money and the kids are having so much fun,” she said looking at the students who were tossing water balloons, running around the track and playing on Fujitani Field. “Isn’t is awesome?”

Wilton Relay for Life has raised $54,782.07 so far and 324 people have been involved online. That is more people and more donations than last year, according to Lindsey Hanley of the American Cancer Society.

Relay for Life began at 6:30 on the Wilton High School field and track. Two students welcomed the crowd, saying “We gather together in the hope for the future that cancer will never steal another life.”

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice thanked those participating saying, “it’s about everyone’s future.”

Sharon Sobel was presented with the Sandra C. Labaree Volunteer Values Award, which recognizes volunteers who go above and beyond to finish the fight against cancer and make an impact in their community. Sobel has volunteered with the American Cancer Society for nearly 20 years since the start of the Relay for Life in Wilton.

Many of the teams participating were formed by Middlebrook students who were members of the Relay Club started by teacher John Priest. Margot DePeugh formed Pirates of the Cure-ibbean — Kicking Cancer in the Arrrses in honor of her father, Kevin, another cancer survivor. She said the team had raised $3,800 by Friday through bake sales and collecting money in a water bottle that she left in a classroom. Students and teachers filled it with spare change.

The members of Team #Hope, also Middlebrook sixth graders, were participating in Relay for Life for the first time. They were manning a table laden with home-baked goodies including cookies, cupcakes, linzer tarts, and brownies. There was also a sizeable jar filled with Gummy Bears. Whoever guessed closest to the number of candies won the whole jar.

The team had raised $950 by Friday night and had fun doing it, the girls said.

The Relay for Life planning committee, comprised of high school students, community members, parents, and teachers is already talking about next year and welcomes any interested volunteers to join them, Hanley said.

Donations raised at this event directly benefit the American Cancer Society’s mission of saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the fight for a world without cancer. Dollars raised by the four million Relay participants in more than 20 countries help the American Cancer Society save lives by funding cancer research, providing free information and services for people with cancer who need them, and by helping people reduce their risk for cancer or find it early when it’s most treatable. More than $10.3 million is invested in research grants in Connecticut.

To make a donation to the Wilton event, visit http://bit.ly/2qZ769t.