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Jacqui & Elmo Inspire Greenwich Cancer Relay Team

Jacqui Walter helped bring Relay to Life to Greenwich after she won her first battle with cancer. That was in high school. Today the college senior, who won a second bout with the illness a year and a half ago, is as committed as ever to the event, which she says helps maintain support long after the cancer is gone.

“It’s a huge comfort,” Walter says of the relay. “Even though it’s been a couple of years since I was sick, [the relay] is important. We always come back and the tradition helps the support.”

Walter’s relay group, Team Elmo, was inspired by the Sesame Street doll that gave her comfort during her illness. In 2004, Walter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After chemotherapy and radiation, she was in remission until July 2008, when she was diagnosed again. She received a stem cell transplant along with chemotherapy and radiation and has been in remission for a year-and-a-half.

“I was given an Elmo doll when I was born practically, and he was really a big help for me to get through the lymphoma,” said Walter. “He was a comfort thing. When I was sick the first time I brought him to the hospital every day, and again when I was sick the second time.”

Nearly three years after her initial diagnoses, Walter and other members of the Cancer Awareness Club at Greenwich High School noticed there were many private fund-raisers for cancer research in town, but none she and her friends could participate in. “We thought, ‘so many towns in Fairfield County participate [in Relay for Life], so why not have one in Greenwich, too?’ ” Walter said.

Walter is majoring in early childhood education at the University of Vermont, where she is also president of the Hillel board and participates in a Relay for Life team. “It’s a nice way to connect back to home,” she said.

Relay for Life of Greenwich is now in its fifth year since Walter helped kick-start the event. This year's overnight relay, one of many held throughout the nation, will be held on the Brunswick School grounds beginning at 7 p.m. June 10 and ending the next morning. Walter said she and the other members of Team Elmo, including her family and friends from Greenwich and college, will be out on the Brunswick Field once again.

Relay for Life of Greenwich is seeking volunteers to sign up for the event planning committee. Those interested should contact Kevin Landesman . Join the local Relay for Life team at The Melting Pot on Thursday, Feb. 24, from 5 to 10 p.m. for a special fund-raising opportunity. A generous portion of the restaurant’s proceeds ($10 per meal) will benefit the American Cancer Society . You will also have an opportunity to meet the local event chairs and learn about ways to support the Relay For Life this year.

Have you ever taken part in the Relay for Life? What is the 24-hour walkathon like? Leave a comment below.

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