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Walking a lap in Baldwin for a cause

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A group of people turned out for the “First Lap” around the Baldwin High School track on the foggy morning of Jan. 4 to support cancer research.

The event is associated with Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraiser. Relay For Life events have raised almost $5 billion to date, according to Gannett, and almost 4 million people take part in Relay events in more than 5,000 communities across the country.

Teams are typically formed by individuals in local communities who walk around a track to raise funds to support the organization’s mission, including increasing cancer survival and improving the quality of life for cancer patients.

Abby Melendez and her husband, Miguel, who are both cancer survivors and volunteers for the American Cancer Society, organized the event, which brings together local community members to raise funds and awareness.

“I’m here to fight cancer,” said Franklin Square resident Carey-Ann Zinn, who lost both of her parents to cancer. She’s been taking part in Relay for Life events for years and typically walks with her team, named Butterflies of Hope.

“It’s just an important cause and something that I really believe in,” Zinn said, “because I would like, one day, for children not to lose their parents to cancer, and for parents not to lose their children to cancer.”

And Relay for Life will return to Baldwin on May 30 at Baldwin Middle School. The event used to be an annual occurrence, up until 2016. Attendance dwindled but Abby and Miguel brought it back.

Each team is asked to have a member on the track at all times to signify the ongoing fight against cancer, said Abby, a thyroid cancer survivor and facilitator of ThyCa Long Island, a support group for thyroid cancer survivors. The first lap signifies that Relay for Life is not just a one-day event, she added, but that fighting cancer is a year-long effort and relayers will continue to raise awareness until a cure is found.

Fellow Baldwin schools employees Carol McAuley, a 14-year cancer survivor, and Jeannie Cortes, a 16-year cancer survivor, walked together at the “First Lap” event. “We’re walking as a group of survivors.”