By Jann Wiswall
Great Valley’s Priscilla Snider is a lot of things to a lot of people. She’s a parent, a spouse, a caseworker with the Cattaraugus County Youth Bureau, a winter-weekend customer service employee at Holiday Valley’s Creekside Lodge, and for 16 years, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life program.
This year, she’s also the Ellicottville Relay for Life’s Honorary Cancer Survivor.
Snider got involved with Olean’s Relay for Life as a team member in 1997 because it sounded like a lot of fun and it was for a great cause. When Ellicottville’s program started, she moved to the Holiday Valley Helpers team, and she’s now that team’s captain, as well as a member of the organizing committee.
In February 2012, when she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Snider was serving as team captain, working at her jobs, and getting chemotherapy and radiation therapy at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.
The goal of her treatment was to reduce the size of the tumor and it was successful. A week before the 2012 Relay, her surgeon said she would need to operate to remove the remaining mass. But in true Snider fashion, Snider asked if she could wait until after the Relay. The surgeon agreed, and two days after a great event, she had the surgery.
“I don’t really know why, but I wasn’t scared to tell people about my situation,” said Snider, whose positive attitude and outlook is simply contagious. “I had a lot of friends, family and supporters cheering me on at last year’s Relay and I can tell you from experience that that makes a huge difference.”
“There are plenty of folks who don’t step forward as survivors,” she said. “That is a very personal decision. Really, I don’t like a lot of attention being focused on me, but somehow I felt comfortable sharing what was going on early in the process. I credit my experience with Relay for that.”
Ellicottville’s Relay for Life is not just a one-day event. It takes months of planning and organizing, and the 13 teams and 96 team members involved this year have been raising funds all spring. But the big event is this Saturday, June 1 at Ellicottville Central School.
The program begins with an opening ceremony at noon and the survivor’s lap – where survivors in attendance, most wearing purple T-shirts, walk amidst cheers and applause. The teams take over and continue walking until midnight. Throughout the day, there are plenty of events for the entire community to enjoy, including a chicken BBQ and tons of other dining selections, a live auction, games for the kids, a DJ spinning tunes and much more.
The most moving and beautiful event, by all accounts, is the Luminaria Ceremony, which honors loved ones who have survived or lost their battles with cancer by lighting candles that are placed in decorated bags. The ceremony begins at 9:30 p.m.
“Relay is a great example of how grassroots efforts make an impact,” said Snider. “You just don’t realize how much you’re helping when you buy some great BBQ chicken and throw a few bucks on a raffle or game. That’s why it’s so important for the entire community to come by and show its support.”
“You know, after all these years being involved in Relay, it certainly is different walking in the Survivor Lap and wearing a purple T, but what an honor!” said Snider, who is being followed regularly by her oncologist in Olean.
“I have been very fortunate in my cancer journey, and I recognize that everyone doesn’t have the same experience. But each day at radiation, I thanked God for the technology available for treatment, and for the expertise of the medical personnel, and for organizations like the American Cancer Society. I’ve met some wonderful people throughout the entire process, and hope everyone will come out and support us this Saturday.”
For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org.