St. Clair Shores residents Katie Brand, Elizabeth Smith and Adam Smith participate in Relay for Life of the Eastside held June 11-12 at Veterans Memorial Park.

St. Clair Shores residents Katie Brand, Elizabeth Smith and Adam Smith participate in Relay for Life of the Eastside held June 11-12 at Veterans Memorial Park.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Relay For Life remembers loved ones, celebrates survivors

By: Maria Allard | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 22, 2022

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Cancer survivors and those who lost loved ones to cancer recently gathered for the annual Relay For Life of the Eastside event at Veterans Memorial Park.

The 24-hour event, which began at noon June 11 and continued until noon June 12, raised money for the American Cancer Society. Relay for Life is held in communities around the world, and team members raise money all year. Monetary donations generated are used for cancer research and for patient programs and services offered through the American Cancer Society.

Relay For Life of the Eastside consists of teams from St. Clair Shores, Warren, Roseville, Eastpointe and the Grosse Pointes. At this year’s event, 18 teams registered to attend, including participants from Roseville Community Schools.

During Relay For Life, the team members set up booths, walked laps and participated in various activities in honor of their family members and friends who died of cancer. Several sponsors also helped with the event.

Some participants camped out in tents overnight. The Luminaria Ceremony was held after dark in remembrance of those who have died from cancer. American Cancer Society Senior Development Manager April Busch attended the event in person.

“I felt the mood was one of excitement and just joy,” she said. “They were happy to be in person. I was impressed by the atmosphere at the event.”

A “more somber feel” came over Veterans Memorial Park when the Luminaria Ceremony began that evening in honor of those who died from cancer.

“They took time to reflect and remember,” Busch said.

At midnight, all the teams gathered at the park pavilion for a midnight buffet, sharing a potluck meal.

“I thought that was really special,” Busch said.

The event finished on Sunday with a closing ceremony.

“(The teams) were exhausted but they were happy to be there,” Busch said.

The Cromie Cougars team, led by Cromie Elementary School teacher Lora Pilarski in Warren Consolidated Schools, raised money again for the cause. While “team captain” Pilarski and her mom Diane Mastin could not be there in person this year because Pilarski’s oldest son graduated from high school on the same day, the team members raised money throughout the year.

About 10 members comprise the Cromie Cougars official team. However, many Cromie parents and students attend the actual event.

Pilarski and Mastin have walked laps in years past at Relay For Life in honor of Mastin’s sister, Darlene McKay, who died from breast cancer 13 years ago. The loss was especially hard for Mastin. She said Relay For Life is something she can do in honor of McKay.

“If you feel lost or are missing someone, the event is amazing,” Mastin said. “Everyone has a story. We are all together, and everyone knows your pain.”

One part that really touches Mastin each time is the Luminaria Ceremony.

“When they light the candles and the bagpiper plays ‘Amazing Grace,’ it will take your breath away,” Mastin said. “They have pictures of survivors and pictures of people we lost on the big screen.”

At press time, the Relay For Life website stated that the Eastside event had raised $42,594.37 thus far. Busch said teams have until July 1 for this fundraising cycle. Then, plans will begin for the 2023 event.

“We still have teams putting out their links on Facebook,” Busch said.

For more information on Relay For Life of the Eastside, visit