Cancer society honors Sharon Sobel

When Sharon Sobel of Wilton found out about the first American Cancer Society Relay for Life event a couple of decades ago, she jumped at the chance to take part.

“I was right there. My mother had passed away only a year and a half before, and it was a good opportunity to do something, because for my mother there was little that could be done,” Sobel said last week. “It was a time to make use of that energy, that frustration.”

The longtime Wilton resident stuck with it, returning to the Relay for Life events each year, and now she is being honored at this year’s Relay for Life on Friday, June 2, with a prestigious New England volunteer award from the American Cancer Society. The award recognizes volunteers who go above and beyond to finish the fight against cancer, and make an impact in their community.

Honorees of the Sandra C. Labaree Volunteer Values Award embody the core values of the New England Division: Mission, Diversity, Stewardship, Respect, and Data-Driven. The award is named after the late Sandra C. Labaree, an American Cancer Society volunteer from Maine who co-founded the New England Division board. “Although she died from breast cancer, her spirit and values live on through this award, which was established in her name in 2000,” a press release said.

“Sharon has been volunteering with the American Cancer Society for nearly 20 years since the start of the Relay for Life of Wilton event,” said Lindsey Hanley, Relay for Life community manager for the cancer society. “Sharon relays for her mother and mother-in-law along with the other friends and family that have been diagnosed. Sharon is extremely committed, having stuck with the event throughout many years, and getting those around her involved. She was the first volunteer I met with for Relay, and one of the volunteers I communicate with most frequently.”

Last year, Sobel traveled to the Relay Expo in Worcester, Mass., making her a part of an elite volunteer group that could attend that day.

“She is also very helpful. When I started with Wilton’s Relay last year, she gave me the ins and outs of everything that has to do with Wilton’s Relay and the town itself,” Hanley said.

“Sharon also helps us secure a sponsorship from the Turnover Shop each year, and lets us use that as a meeting location when we need to. Sharon is also extremely honest, never afraid to share her feelings and experience to make sure that we are doing the best job in Wilton that we possibly can,” Hanley added.

What is most remarkable about Sobel is her dedication and humility in her volunteer efforts.

“She is committed and always willing to lend a helping hand, with her heart always being in the right place,” Hanley said. “The American Cancer Society and Relay for Life program cannot thank Sharon enough for her dedication, passion and commitment to making this event a success.”

Sobel usually volunteers in the registration tent as well. By day she is an English professor at Norwalk Community College and a writer of romance novels. She is married to Ken Sobel, a marketing analyst consultant, and has grown children.

She likes the walking aspect of Relay for Life the best.

“It’s walking, so people of all ages can participate. People with strollers or with their dogs go around the track,” Sobel said. “No one is deemed the winner or anything. The winner is really the team and the neighborhood and the town.”