Students of Mount Anthony Union Middle School take part in the “relay recess” event held on the softball field of the school. The event was
Students of Mount Anthony Union Middle School take part in the “relay recess” event held on the softball field of the school. The event was held to encourage students to take part in future relays, such as the upcoming Relay for Life. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON -- Mount Anthony Union Middle School hosted its second annual Relay Walk/Cancer Walk on Thursday, which is designed to increase student awareness of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

The ACS reached out to the school last year, said physical education teacher Tracy Galle. The organization, she said, runs a Relay Recess program for elementary schools, and high schoolers are encouraged to get involved with the Relay itself, but there was currently no program to raise awareness at the middle school. "So," she said, "we started the Cancer Walk to raise awareness of the Relay for Life at this age level."

The 600 students began gathering on the field outside the middle school at around 12:45 p.m. Each of the school's 52 advisories (groups of about 12 students that meet at the start of every day) formed a team, and each team had its own colors and theme, just like at the Relay.

Student Anna Iannotti gave a small speech to open the ceremony at 1 p.m. "Today we are walking because the American Cancer Society wants kids to make a difference in the fight against cancer," she said, "Through this walk, we are helping to start on a lifelong path to healthier living and awareness. Learn about how to reduce your chances of getting cancer through physical activity, good nutrition, healthy habits, sun safety, and tobacco and alcohol facts."

The students walked, or jogged, around the perimeter of the field for about half an hour before Galle called for their attention once again.


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This time, two students read a small piece, and Galle asked everyone to perform a lap in silence, in honor of those who "are fighting, have beaten, or who have been lost to cancer."

Galle said that she hopes to expand the event in future years. Right now, each advisory has the option to do fundraising, with any proceeds given to the ACS, but fundraising isn't yet a central part of the event. "We want to start adding events, to incorporate the elementary and adult populations," said Galle, adding that in the future the event may be an entire cancer week leading up to the walk itself. The event, she said, will continue to grow little by little every year.

This year, posters hung on the fence displayed the names of friends and family members who had been lost to cancer, including former Molly Stark Elementary teacher Gail Harwood, who passed in January. Next year, the students will carry name plates to commemorate those who have been lost.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB