- FUN FEATURES
At 4 p.m. last Friday, activity behind Cheshire High School was at a fevered pitch.
Volunteers were setting up the main stage near the football field, tents began popping up on every inch of ground, and streams of cars could be seen filing into the high school, all in preparation for Cheshire’s annual Relay For Life event.
However, one area of the field was already up and running by the time most preparations had begun. Kids Care has become the kickoff event for Relay, where kindergarten and elementary school students enjoy a fun-filled afternoon of activities and games, all in the name of raising money to battle cancer.
While their older Relay participants were busy preparing for a full night ahead, Kids Care students dedicated their time to such things as face painting, sack races, ring tosses, and throwing the football around.
Under the large tent located in the middle of one of the practice fields, a large crowd of parents and students excitedly mingled as a perfect summer sun beat down on the area.
“The weather has been great, and we are grateful for that,” said Landa Vernon, one of the tri-chairs of the Kids Care event. “It is a really special time and everyone enjoys it.”
Vernon stated that this year’s event was the biggest in Kids Care’s existence. Last year, 210 people came out to participate. This year saw that number grow to 250.
“I think it is just a product of people knowing about us and knowing we are here,” Vernon determined. “It is just exposure that’s helped grow the numbers.”
What’s also true is that most families have been touched personally by cancer and, despite their young age, many of the students in attendance have or do know someone suffering from the disease.
Vernon admitted that she has had family members die from cancer, and having her children take part in raising money for such an important cause is worthwhile.
“As a parent, the best thing you can do for your children is set an example,” she said. “This shows them that charity work can be fun and exciting.”
Jennifer Weissman brought her two daughters, Emily and Hayley, for the second time in as many years to Kids Care. While she admitted the kids enjoyed the activities and had fun interacting with children their own age, she also was convinced the event provides a valuable teaching moment.
“I think it’s a great way to introduce the topic (of cancer),” said Weissman. “This is a fun, unthreatening atmosphere, so I think it is a perfect environment to get them involved with a really serious issue.”
Ann Marie Maguder and her daughter, Emma, were participating in their first Kids Care day and enjoying both the activities and the treats. Emma, for one, was happy to be crunching down on a hard candy shaped like a ring, letting the sugar cake over her lips.
“We are having a lot of fun,” said Ann Marie Maguder. “This is such a great event we definitely wanted to be a part of it.”
Maguder echoed many of her fellow parents’ comments, stating that Kids Care offered an opportunity to bring home a discussion about a difficult topic.
“I think this sort of event makes them aware of what is really going on in the world,” she said.
The finale to Kids Care is the traditional lap around the field, which also serves as the kickoff to the main Relay event. Carrying a banner with “Kids Care” written across the front, students from all of the elementary schools, along with Darcey School, filter onto the track together to walk in honor of those who have died, and those who continue to battle against the disease.
This moment, Vernon admits, is the most special for her, and one to which she looks forward each year.
“I think, as a parent, when you see the kids taking that walk, that is a special feeling,” she said. “This has been our biggest event ever, and it is a great way to finish it off.”
As far as money raised, the event collected more than $3,500 last year and Vernon was hoping that this year would “be our most profitable.” When asked how much was desired, Vernon put it simply.
“One dollar more than we took in last year,” she said, with a smile.