Virtual VHS Relay for Life honors those impacted by cancer

Vandegrift luminaria committee meeting with Relay for Life: top left: Aparna Sathya, bottom: Leya Bustami, top right: Leigh Olsen.

Vandegrift student Leigh Olsen, one of the co-leads for this year’s Relay for Life Luminaria committee, wasn’t going to let the event get cancelled this spring. The team adjusted things and worked to create a virtual event “while still fulfilling the purpose of Relay: to honor and celebrate those impacted by cancer,” Olsen said.

Typically, the Luminaria ceremony gathers all Relay attendees on the Monroe Stadium field to listen to speeches given by cancer survivors or family/friends of those tragically lost to cancer while candle lit bags spell out the word “Hope” in the stands. Each bag is obtained via a $5 donation and dedicated to someone who has battled or is battling cancer.

Because they could not gather in person this year, the Relay for Life luminaria committee wanted to share several stories in Four Points News. 

“A central point of Relay is the gathering of our community to support the cause of Relay,” Olsen said. “Even though our community cannot be physically present for the event this year, it would be wonderful for the message of Relay and the Luminaria ceremony to still reach and be heard by our Four Points community.”

Kade Kielian – Cancer Survivor 

Kade Kielian was diagnosed with stage IV di use large B cell lymphoma in Sept. 2019.

On September 21st, 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. Needless to say, it was without a doubt one of the hardest physical and mental challenges I’ve ever gone through, but I like to remind myself that I’m much stronger because of it. I have a newfound passion for joining the fight against cancer and long to see the day when cancer is unheard of as a leading cause of death. 

I personally have not been able to attend a Luminaria ceremony due to the pandemic, but from what I’ve heard, it sounds like a fantastic way to come together as a community and honor caregivers and those affected by cancer. It truly is the epitome of the “why” behind Relay For Life, for those who’ve suffered from cancer are the reason we choose to fight back. Every donation for a Luminaria is a step forward to a new era in which we no longer need to fear the word “cancer,” and I can’t wait to watch this dream of mine become a reality.

Leya Bustami – Best Friend of Child lost to Cancer 

When we were in 5th grade, Dunnovan Healy was diagnosed with cancer. We were best friends, and had been since the third grade. He fought hard and never lost his kind hearted spirit. Every time I visited him, we laughed and joked like no time had passed since our last visit. His smile lit up the room and his laugh 

Leya Bustami and Dunnovan Healy, before he died of cancer in 2017.

was contagious. He unfortunately passed away in 2017, which was devastating. He had a lasting impact on everyone around him. Dunnovan will forever be in my heart and the hearts of many. 

The Luminaria ceremony is especially meaningful because we get to honor those we lost and those who are still battling. It warms my heart to know that so many people are rallying for the same cause, which is to raise money to fight cancer. It’s amazing to see what we can do when we come together as a community. The Luminaria ceremony is really emotional as well. It’s heartbreaking how many people have had their lives touched in some way by cancer. Hopefully through raising money and awareness we can honor those who have passed and benefit those still fighting.

Kirsten Mulligan – Wife of Current Cancer Fighter & VHS Relay for Life Sponsor 

Kirsten Mulligan, a Vandegrift teacher, with her family. Eric, her husband, was diagnosed with cancer in April 2020.

My husband, Eric Mulligan, was diagnosed last April with cancer. This year has been incredibly difficult (surgeries, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and of course, fear of Covid-19), but we are extremely thankful to be in the care of M.D. Anderson in Houston–the best cancer care in the world. This diagnosis is not at all what we were expecting in the last year, but we are learning to take one day at a time with the support of our amazing family, coworkers, friends, and neighbors in Steiner Ranch. 

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life Luminaria Ceremony is about hope. It is about Remembering, Celebrating, and Fighting back against cancer. It is about realizing that nobody has to fight cancer alone; we are a community of cancer warriors. This ceremony, with the speakers, the luminaria bags dedicated to those fighting cancer, the lighting of the bags honoring family and friends who have been affected by cancer, and the silence as we hold hands and take one lap around the track together (in “normal” years)…this powerful ceremony is about the unity of the VHS Community in the fight against cancer. It is truly a magical part of VHS Relay for Life.

2021 Luminaria Committee Members: 

Leya Bustami 

Leigh Olsen 

Aparna Sathya 


Kiyan Alrobaire 

Juliana Cornell 

Anna Fox 

Yoosr Hassan 

Nicole Hilscher 

Emma Prilop 

Nikhil Richtermeyer