Relay For Life returns to Baldwin

Abby and Miguel Melendez revive cancer walk


Cancer survivors Abby and Miguel Melendez, of Baldwin, were determined to bring the Relay For Life back to their community, and their efforts have been rewarded: The cancer walk will return to Baldwin Harbor Park on Saturday.

“It’s about getting the community involved,” Abby Melendez said. “Slowly but surely, the community is coming together, and that’s sort of what we were hoping.”

Launched in 1985, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life has become a global event, taking place in more than 30 countries and bringing together communities to honor those who have succumbed to the disease and to celebrate those who have survived it. The event raises money to help people fighting cancer, to support their families and to contribute to advocacy and research.

The event was held at Baldwin High School from 2009 to 2013, and then moved to Baldwin Park from 2014 and 2016, raising nearly $28,000 in that final year.

Abby Melendez, 64, a thyroid cancer survivor, and her husband, Miguel, 66, who has been free of prostate cancer for 14 years, tried to bring the event back in 2020, but were foiled by the coronavirus pandemic. That year it was held virtually, and still raised more than $12,000.

Relay for Life participants can form teams in their communities, join an existing team or take part individually. There are more than a dozen area teams, including The Irish Pub and Blink Fitness, both in Baldwin.

The event will take place from noon to 10 p.m., and participants will walk around a track or along designated route. The relay will begin with a survivors’ lap, honoring those who have triumphed over cancer, during which they will be cheered on by supporters. After that, caregivers — friends and family members who have supported someone with the disease — will take their turn on the track.

As night falls, the atmosphere will be one of reflection and remembrance, as luminaria will be lit and sent aloft to honor those who lost their lives to cancer, creating an inspiring display in the night sky.

Preparations began in January at the Relay for Life First Lap at Baldwin Middle School — a concept that was created by social media enthusiast Joe Gillette in 2018. The lap takes place on the first Saturday of the year, kicking off the effort leading to the relay itself.

Subsequent meetings were held at the Baldwin Public Library, where volunteers gathered monthly to brainstorm ideas for this weekend’s event. “It ramped up,” Miguel Melendez said of the meetings. “Once we had all the logistics settled, people were able to focus on the fundraising. In March, people were getting really excited and spewing ideas.”

There have been several local fundraisers in recent months, including at The Irish Pub and Painting With a Twist.

The Melendezes reached their pre-event goal, raising more than $15,000 for cancer research and patient care.

“We aimed low, since we didn’t know how it was going to be and how the community would react,” Miguel said. “We’ve done very well with sponsors.”

Those sponsors included members of the community and the teams they formed.

The Melendezes said they are already gearing up for a Relay for Life next year, aiming to raise even more money. “It’s good to bring awareness, because whenever they hear the word cancer, they know that we’re here as a community,” Miguel said. “The American Cancer Society is there as a resource.

“Hopefully, next year we’ll give it a little bump to help out, instead of $15,000,” he added. “Maybe we’ll make it higher.”

For more information on the event, go to