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Relay for Life Kickoff brings hope to Agawam before May event

Date: 1/16/2015

AGAWAM – Relay for Life is back for its fourth year in Agawam, and though the relay itself is not until May, the kickoff event will take place on Jan. 22. 

The event will be held at the Agawam YMCA and will offer people a chance to learn about registering for Relay, forming teams or to find out for what Relay for Life stands, according to Janine Iacolo, Relay for Life Chair.

“We’re going to talk about goals for this year and look at what we have planned. We’re going to recognize some people who did outstanding work in fundraising, teams that had a lot of people or a lot of people still there at the closing ceremonies, people who had the most survivors, recognize survivors and caregivers,” Iacolo. “It’s a celebration of what we have done and what we’re going to do.”

Iacolo said that there were about 75 people in attendance of last year’s kickoff on one of the coldest days in January. She was happy with that, but this year, she wants more. 

Those attending the kickoff event this year will receive a free month’s membership at the YMCA. They will also be introducing “Relay Bucks,” which will award people for meeting specific goals, like having a certain number of dollars raised or a certain number of team members.

Iacolo said that she wants people to come out and celebrate the lives of those affected by cancer, and that’s really what the event comes down to. Having been a caregiver herself, Iacolo said she knows how important it is to talk about cancer and not be silent.
Her brother was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor when he was 22 years old. He was given two and a half years to live.

He lived for 17. 

“He truly was a gift to us,” Iacolo said. “He had a certain attitude that cancer was not going to beat him. About a month before he passed away, he had taken a serious turn and he made me promise I would always tell his story.”

Though Iacolo said that sometimes proved difficult, when it was announced that Relay for Life was coming to Agawam, she saw her chance.

“He got us to see the mission of the American Cancer Society, caring for others and not being silent about cancer and taking away the taboo,” Iacolo said. “I will shout it from the rooftops as loud as I can that cancer will one day be defeated.”

Iacolo has done her part in this by keeping the conversation alive, but also with tangible efforts. Last year’s Relay for Life raised a little less than $100,000. The initial goal was $70,000.

Though Iacolo knows that the event is capable of rising above her goal, she said she is interested in raising it yearly in increments. This year’s goal is $85,000.

“I always believe that if we beat the goal, then great,” Iacolo said. “If we don’t beat the goal, someone’s going to have to answer why we didn’t.”

Beyond the fundraising, Relay for Life and the Kickoff event offer a chance to show support to those touched by cancer.

“When we can connect survivors with people who have had the same cancer, or know people who have it, they know they’re not alone,” Iacolo said. “You’re not alone; you’re really not. We’re a big, huge family.”

The kickoff event will run from 6 to 8 p.m. with a snow date of Feb. 5. For more information about the it, contact Iacolo at 478-9491 or or contact the American Cancer Society at 493-2150. For more information about the Relay, which will take place on May 15 and 16, go to