The first lap, which according to Relay tradition must be walked by cancer survivors, was "difficult for him to complete. But he insisted on doing it. It was so important to him," recalled his daughter Susan Pirro.
On June 7 and 8, organizers will host the second annual Relay for Life of Secaucus in Buchmuller Park.
Shababb won't be there to walk this time, as he passed away several weeks ago.
But Pirro - one of two co-chairs of the event - and other relatives will walk in his honor.
Proceeds from the 16-hour overnight walk-a-thon will benefit the ACS's local treatment and research programs.
"I usually donate money [to good causes], but last year I said, 'Why not get involved for a change, rather than just give money?'," said Valarie Costello, who was raised in Secaucus and graduated from the local high school. Costello, who walked last year, and will again next weekend with Team Benedek, has an uncle who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer.
"Giving money can sometimes be a very passive thing, but I decided I wanted to do something more active this time," she said.
Costello added, "Last year I walked because of my best friend from high school [Amy-Fine Benedek]. Her mother died of breast cancer. This year, I'm still walking for her, but now I have another reason to walk." At least 22 other teams will join Team Benedek and Pirro's team, Secaucus 1-2-3, for the walk-a-thon. Each team has 13 members.
Last year, Relay for Life of Secaucus raised $70,000, a total that organizers know will be difficult to match this year.
"The economy being what it is, I don't think we'll get that this year," Pirro said. "But this isn't all about the money and matching dollar amounts anyway. This is about camaraderie and community, and getting together for a good cause."
Lap of life
Buchmuller Park will open the gates to registered team members at 3 p.m. Various entertainment acts will begin shortly thereafter.
"Even if you aren't walking, there's going to be plenty of activity," said Amy Fine-Benedek, who is co-chairing the event with Pirro. "There's a stage set up, and we have entertainment all afternoon."
There will be a special dinner for cancer survivors at 5:30 p.m., followed by an opening ceremony at 7. The Relay will begin after the opening ceremony with cancer survivors and their caregivers taking the first two laps around the field. Registered participants can join in beginning with the third lap.
After that, at least one member from each team will be on the field walking until the Relay ends at 7 a.m. Sunday morning.
Walking will stop briefly at 9 p.m. on Saturday night during the luminaria ceremony, a candlelight celebration/remembrance of cancer survivors and those who have been lost to the disease.
"We walk all night to symbolize that cancer doesn't sleep, and if we're serious about fighting it we can't sleep either," Pirro noted.
Volunteers still needed
Pirro and Fine-Benedek stressed that more help is needed to make the Relay a success, and there are many opportunities for the community to support the event.
"No one has to worry about doing heavy lifting, or anything like that," Pirro commented. "But we do need a lot of hands to help out."
Those who can't volunteer can support the Relay in other ways.
"Throughout the event there will be other fundraisers for the local ACS chapter," Fine-Benedek said. "A lot of individual teams will be doing fundraisers in their tents."
One team, she noted, will offer face-paining for children in exchange for a donation. The Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department, which also has a team that's walking, will be grilling and selling hotdogs, with food sales going to the ACS. There will be a raffle as well, and for a $10 donation a luminaria candle can be lit in honor of a loved one who has battled cancer.
The community can donate even after the Relay has ended.
"The ACS fiscal year ends in August. So any donation made to http://events.cancer.org/RFLSecaucusNJ will still count towards our 2008 total," Fine-Benedek said.
To volunteer for the event, contact Susan Pirro at (201) 563-2161 or Amy Fine-Benedek at firstname.lastname@example.org.