This Relay brings life to Wilton

Peggy Meurer-Tanzman wouldn’t allow the idea. She wanted to believe she was a cancer survivor, but she wanted to be sure.

This Friday, at Wilton’s annual Relay for Life walk at Wilton High School, Ms. Meurer-Tanzman is ready to step out. The Wilton resident, a math teacher at Wilton High, will be the honorary chairperson for the event.

“It’s such an honor,” she said. “It’s so nice that they asked me to do this.”

Relay for Life is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, beginning at 6. Participants walk around the track in an effort to raise money and awareness as the signature fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. With many Relay events around the country, the walk raises more than $400 million annually, according to its website.

Locally, at press time, the 2013 Relay for Life has 56 teams and 474 participants. They have raised more than $112,000.

As it is an overnight event, teams camp out around the track, and members take turns keeping the Relay active. The atmosphere is one of camaraderie, and something that builds community pride.

“There are certain things about this town that I love,” Ms. Meurer-Tanzman said. “The football games, and these kinds of events (including Relay for Life). I love the town feel of it.”

Entertainment will also be a part of the evening, including activities for kids and music.

While she called it “a great event,” Ms. Meurer-Tanzman also stressed “they need help.”

“They need more volunteers to run it. There are only five or six people that run the whole thing. That’s an undertaking. We’re trying to make awareness of this cause.”

While she said she doesn’t intend to walk all night, she did say she’ll walk several miles, having participated in the past with her daughter.

The Relay for Life has several components to it, beginning with the survivor’s lap, which allows those who have beaten cancer to celebrate, as they’re cheered on by family and friends.

Ms. Meurer-Tanzman will have plenty of support as she walks with survivors. Besides her family, including her husband, two sons, and a daughter, the math teacher will have students both past and present there for her. Call it a perk of being a teacher, and a popular one at that.

“I love my job,” she said.

“It’s five years since I had cancer. I wasn’t ready to go there in the past. I had to be dragged onto the field to do the survivor walk. This is a nice way to celebrate.

“This year I will proudly walk that walk.”

Later in the evening, a caregiver lap recognizes those who have provided care to patients. The powerful luminaria ceremony lights up the night as candles are placed inside personalized bags to honor those touched by cancer.

The evening’s activities head into morning, as the fight-back ceremony closes the event. Participants do a final lap around the track as they pledge to take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatment, and prevention.

As Ms. Meurer-Tanzman prepares to open the event on Friday, there’s still one more thing she needs to address.

“I haven’t written my speech yet,” she said.

That could be problematic for a person who loves to laugh but recognizes there is nothing funny about cancer.

“My family, the way I was brought up, we do things with humor,” she said with a laugh, of course. “How can I be true to myself and true to the cause?”

Considering she has beaten cancer, this shouldn’t be an issue.