Middlebrook teacher named Relay for Life honorary chair

Middlebrook social studies teacher John Priest will be the honorary chair of this year’s Wilton Relay for Life on Saturday, May 14.

Last June, Priest was diagnosed with colon cancer. That summer, he underwent surgery and started chemotherapy days before the start of the school year.

“At the open house for the parents, I made the decision to tell the parents what was going on and let them know that I would probably tell the kids if they started asking questions,” said Priest.

Priest said Wilton Relay for Life Committee member Tiffany Tecce, whose daughter attends Middlebrook, approached him about being this year’s honorary chair about two months ago.

“Throughout the year, Tiffany’s daughter, Riley, kept her updated on how I was doing,” he said, “and then, eventually, we started talking about Relay.”

After six months of chemotherapy, doctors ran a CAT scan on Priest to see if there was any cancer in his body. Priest received the results of the scan this past February and “there was nothing,” he said, “which was fantastic news.”

Even though he will have to do more scans for the next couple of years, said Priest, “the first post-treatment scan was great news.”

Relay for Life

Relay for Life is the world’s largest fund-raiser to end cancer, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, during which teams take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park or fairground, raising funds and awareness for the fight against cancer.

Priest said this year’s Relay for Life will be “a new experience” for him.

“It’s sad to say, but over the years I’ve kind of just watched it from afar,” he said. “I always knew about their efforts, but this year, I obviously have a huge sensitivity and appreciation for it.”

Priest said now that he lives in Wilton, he will be able to spend the day at Relay and “get a better feel for what it is.”

“Maybe in the years to come I can participate and help out in different ways,” he added.

Wilton Relay for Life will kick off at Wilton High School’s Fujitani Field with a 3 p.m. opening ceremony to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer and hear from the honorary chair.

“I’ll get up and talk for a few minutes about my own experience — what I’ve experienced over the last year,” said Priest. “It’s been a long year and a lot has happened. It’s been life-changing.”

Cancer survivors will then take the first lap around the track during the 3:15 survivors lap, and anyone who has ever cared for someone with cancer will walk a special lap during the caregivers lap at 3:20.

A candlelight Luminaria Ceremony will take place at 9 to remember loved ones lost to cancer, support people who currently have cancer, and honor people who fought cancer in the past. The event will end with a closing ceremony at 10:30 to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments.

“There has been a lot of hard work that goes into planning the event behind the scenes for months,” said Relay for Life community manager Lindsey Hanley, “and I cannot wait to see all of the hard work that the committee members have been doing come together.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) Club, one of 39 teams participating in this year’s Wilton Relay for Life, made a video promoting this year’s fund-raiser.

In the two-minute video, students say why they participate in the annual walk to fight cancer. Some relay for friends and family members, while others relay for “a cure,” for “hope,” for “those who can’t,” and “to kick cancer’s butt.”

Click here to watch the video.

As of May 10, 269 participants have signed up for this year’s Wilton Relay for Life and more than $32,600 has been raised.

Anyone interested in joining the Relay for Life of Wilton Committee may email Hanley at Lindsey.Hanley@cancer.org. For more information, visit relayforlife.org/wiltonct.