NUTLEY, NJ — The 13th annual Nutley Relay for Life will unfold in DeMuro Park on May 17, from 6 to 11 p.m. Commissioner Mauro Tucci, director of parks and public property in the town, who has overseen the event from its inception, said 190 individuals and 36 teams will be participating.
“We’re very optimistic and excited by the hard work,” he said. “The event helps a lot of people.”
Over the years, the Nutley effort has raised almost $1.3 million for the American Cancer Society. The goal this year is $90,000.
While defeating cancer and empowering people is paramount, the Nutley Relay for Life is a spectacle with a deep sense of community and a signature event for the township.
There will be plenty to see and root for come May 17. In addition to home cooking on sale and activities for the kids, there is an opening ceremony, a keynote speaker, a walk by cancer survivors and caregivers, fundraising teams taking laps, a luminaria lighting to recognize departed loved ones and closing celebrations. At a Nutley Relay for Life, there are no sidelines.
Tucci recalled the reason it was established.
“The way it was presented to me,” he said, “was when my son said there was this great event in West Orange. I asked him what it was and he said it was people walking over night to defeat cancer.”
Tucci thought it was a great idea, too. His son, also named Mauro, was the chairman of the first Nutley Relay for Life. The first 11 were held throughout the night.
“We use to hold it overnight,” Tucci said. “But for youngsters and older people, it’s better to cut it off at 11 p.m.”
The chairwoman this year is Heather Soto, who at one time was a participant, according to Tucci. But come relay time, everyone in the parks department gets involved. Planning has been going on throughout the year.
“In my department, we have over 125 programs in addition to our sports fields,” he said. “The Relay for Life has emerged as a primary event, but it’s really not an event, it’s a cause. It’s something you work on every week. You don’t raise this kind of money by just showing up. There’s a lot of organizations supporting us. It’s a contagious event and the people in Nutley are noted for their volunteerism.”
Tucci is proud that his department is responsible for the relay. He called cancer a tricky disease requiring a continuous fight. Picking the keynote speaker will require serious thought, too.
“We try to diversify who the speaker is,” he said. “We want the full impact of our hard work. You don’t get this unless you listen to the words of someone who experienced it.”
For more information, go to the Nutley Relay for Life website.