Luminaria lights up Relay

Published 10:29 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The luminaria ceremony at Relay for Life is a time to remember those who have been lost to cancer and a time to honor survivors.

The ceremony is also, for many people, the most emotional part of Relay for Life.

“The luminaria ceremony is what we use to celebrate and honor those that have passed from or currently fighting cancer and their caregivers,” said event lead Dana DeFreeuw. “People can purchase a bag or torch, and they line the track and are lit. We do a ceremony different every year.”


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While the bags and torches are lit around the track at Nansemond River High School, those participating take a silent lap around the track with bag pipes playing.

“It’s a way for people that want to remember their loved ones to remember and honor the ones still fighting,” DeFreeuw said.

The luminaria serves as a somber moment to keep the focus on what Relay for Life is about. The event reminds those attending that Relay for Life is about honoring survivors and remembering lives lost, DeFreeuw said.

Every year, the Relay for Life team tries to do something special with the ceremony. In years past, they have used the candle bags to spell out words across the bleachers. Two years ago, the bleachers read “hope” and “cure.”

“We are working with Paul Jarman on something new this year,” DeFreeuw said. “We are not quite sure what that is yet. Paul is our entertainment lead and he has already thrown in a few ideas.”

The luminaria ceremony is important for those attending. DeFreeuw believes that once you attend one, you will never miss another.

“If you know someone that is fighting or passed, you will be a part of something that is huge. The camaraderie and community feeling for that small amount of time is great,” DeFreeuw said. “You remember that all of you are affected by the same thing, and you know you are not alone. It will make you cry and get goosebumps. It’s a very emotional ceremony.”

Those attending or those just wanting to purchase a bag or torch for the ceremony can contact DeFreeuw at It is $10 to purchase a bag, and the purchaser can decorate the bag and return it before the event, or they can give a note and staff will write the names. Torches are $50 and will have a plaque on them that can honor or memorialize someone. After the ceremony, torches can be retrieved and brought home.

Currently 43, teams have raised $22,763 for Relay for Life Suffolk. The event will be at 6 p.m. on May 18 at Nansemond River High School.