Relay for Life to have uplifting theme

Last year, 66 teams participated in the Monroe/Trumbull Relay for Life and raised more than $89,000.

Cathy Lombardi, human resources manager for the town of Monroe and former event chairman, said the committee hopes to sign on 73 teams this year. The 2013 goal is to raise $100,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Lombardi’s niece, Katharine Bobel, is the 2013 Relay chairman. Bobel joined Lombardi on Team Inspiration for last season’s Relay.

“There will be some new things happening this year but we’ve just started the planning process,” Bobel said. “We will have a caregivers reception, along with the survivors dinner, as we did last year. We also hope to re-create the memory garden.”

Since 1985, Relay for Life events around the country have raised more than $4 billion to fight cancer.

The 2013 Monroe/Trumbull Relay will have the theme “It’s My Party” and take place Friday, June 7, at Trumbull High School.

“This is in keeping with the idea that we want more and more cancer survivors to keep on having birthdays,” Bobel said.

Debbie Ferreira, the Relay’s staff partner from the American Cancer Society, said the organizers like to keep the event “fresh and fun.”

“Every team will be able to pick a different holiday party to celebrate during the Relay,” Ferreira said.

Balloons, noisemakers and even a toast with apple cider in festive flutes helped to kick off this year’s Relay organizing at a recent New Year’s Eve-themed gathering.

Dr. Justin Persico, of Oncology Associates of Bridgeport in Trumbull, and personal physician of the event’s honorary chairman, Sharon Buzi, spoke during the event. Persico, a Monroe resident, commented briefly about current research in cancer care.

Honorary role

A two-time cancer survivor, Buzi is the sister-in-law of the late Tom Buzi, former Monroe first selectman. After battling cancer since 1993, Tom Buzi succumbed to the disease in April 2010.

Sharon Buzi decided to join Relay for Life that spring with Team Buzi. “It was only me and two friends,” she said.

Because there was little interest in forming a team the following year, she became part of the Relay’s organizing committee.

Last year, Buzi was a member of the St. George Orthodox Church’s Wonder Workers team and also in charge of entertainment and activities for the event.

Last summer, Sharon was diagnosed with leukemia. Although she is responding positively to treatment, Buzi told committee members she didn’t want to take on any volunteer positions.

She was happy to be named the Relay’s honorary chairman, though. “Tom was actually an honorary chair, too,” she said. “ I’m looking forward to it.”

Sharon and her husband, Gregory, Tom’s brother, live in Monroe.

Raising funds

Kim Redmond of Monroe started Team Hakuna Matata last year with her daughter, Sarah, a Masuk High School sophomore. A teacher at Monroe Elementary School, Redmond said she knows family members and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Last year, Team Hakuna Matata raised money by selling purple Relay T-shirts and sweatshirts.

“This year we’re also going to sell pajama bottoms,” Redmond said. The purple-and-pink sleepwear are all handmade. “Someone is sewing them right now,” she said.

Lombardi said the Relay committee is looking for new fund-raising ideas. In May, she will help coordinate the annual Paint the Town Purple at the Monroe library.

For the past three years, team members have sold merchandise, hosted games, offered face painting, and provided entertainment to raise funds at the community celebration.

“We’re not done recruiting,” Lombardi said. “We’re always looking for new members for our teams and new teams to join the Relay.”