Cancer never sleeps, which is why Rod Tam (not the politician of the same name) will be staying up all night July 17 into the early morning of July 18 for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life at Magic Island.
The Makiki resident first got involved with Relay For Life in 2007 after seeing cancer touch the lives of three of his family members. At the time, one aunt was just completing treatment for breast cancer, an uncle was battling lymphoma and another aunt had passed away from breast cancer the year before. Tam rallied his large family (he has more than 30 first cousins alone) and created the P.O.D. Racers in honor of Uncle Phil and aunties Omi and Denys.
“It was our way to ‘Celebrate’ our survivors, ‘Remember’ those who lost the battle and to ‘Fight Back’ against cancer,” says Tam, who was raised on Kauai and graduated from Kamehameha Schools.
This year he co-chairs the Relay For Life Magic Island committee with Jason Paloma, and though he says ACS provides “tremendous guidance and staff support,” the Relays are volunteer-driven and it is up to members to plan and execute all aspects of the night.
“At Relay,” Tam says, “teams of people camp out at a local high school, park or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track. There are certain traditions at all Relays, no matter where they are held. These traditions help participants to celebrate, remember and fight back.”
Relay starts with a Survivors Lap, an inspirational time when survivors are invited to take a lap together to celebrate victories achieved over cancer. After dark they remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Last, there is a Fight Back Ceremony where participants make a personal commitment to save lives.
“It’s rewarding to see how many people in our community take the time to make a difference,” says Tam, an assistant vice president for Aon Risk Services Inc. “It’s not easy asking people for donations, nor is it easy to stay up all night walking. But as you make ‘one more lap’ at 3 in the morning, you realize it’s not nearly as hard as what a cancer patient goes though.
“Cancer never sleeps, so you power through.”
The Relay For Life Magic Island committee is still seeking teams of volunteers to help it raise money and awareness for cancer research. To find out more, sign up or make a donation, visit relayforlife.org/magicislandhi.
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