Relay for Life held in Meriden, Wallingford to support American Cancer Society

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The 27th annual Relay for Life of Meriden-Wallingford kicked off with a car parade in Wallingford Friday night. The parade was followed by a mini-relay at Platt High School in Meriden.

“We are excited to be able to come together as a community and partake in relay,” Lynn Kipphut, American Cancer Society community development manager, said Friday. 

Cancer survivors, caregivers, and supporters all gathered in the parking lot of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Wallingford at the start of the annual fundraiser. Catherine Balay was at the parade with her team in honor of her son Ethan. He died in 2018 at six years old due to terminal brain cancer. Balay said her life changed in 24 hours when they got his diagnosis in 2017. 

“Everyone goes through the same thing in different ways,” Balay said at the event. 

Annetta DePino was also at the event with her team, Amelia’s Mermaids, in honor of her daughter, who died in 2019 at 20 years old from leukemia. DePino said the American Cancer Society helps so many people with services like rides to treatments, food, and endless support.

Isabel Rosa-Kaiser lost her mother, Angelica Diaz, to endometrial cancer in 2019. She said the American Cancer Society helped her mother when insurance didn’t cover certain things, like a wig. The support system was also incredibly helpful, she said. Rosa-Kaiser also works in the oncology field and said she sees so many cancer patients that can’t afford treatments. 

This was the third annual car parade, a shift from the traditional event due to the pandemic in 2020. From Anthem on Leigus Road in Wallingford the caravan was escorted to Platt High School on Coe Avenue in Meriden by local police from both towns and a Relay For Life yellow fire engine from Shelton, Kipphut said.

Kipphut said they are hopeful that they will be able to return to a typical relay event next year. The mini-relay went from 8 p.m. to midnight and included the traditional lap for cancer survivors and caregivers, a luminary lap and a glow hour. 

Ryan Steven, 11, sang the National Anthem ahead of the car parade leaving. His mother, Lesley Guerra, is a breast cancer survivor, and graduate of Platt High School. Guerra said she was declared a survivor in September 2021. Steven said he enjoys singing for other survivors and caregivers. 

Reporter Lauren Sellew can be reached at


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