ROSEMARY GAVIN (from l. to r.), John Curley, Bill Edwards and Erin Curley were part of a previous year’s “Relay For Life” team — nicknamed ‘The
Incredibles’ — from Our Lady of the Assumption Church. Edwards, a fixture at OLA, died last year after a brave fight with melanoma. Even though this year’s event was cancelled, Gavin continued on her own and raised $2,203. (Photo provided)
ROSEMARY GAVIN (from l. to r.), John Curley, Bill Edwards and Erin Curley were part of a previous year’s “Relay For Life” team — nicknamed ‘The Incredibles’ — from Our Lady of the Assumption Church. Edwards, a fixture at OLA, died last year after a brave fight with melanoma. Even though this year’s event was cancelled, Gavin continued on her own and raised $2,203. (Photo provided)

Even during a pandemic, Rosemary Gavin is getting her steps in. 

Every spring, Gavin has walked with Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Latham as part of “Relay For Life,” a national fundraising cancer walk hosted by the American Cancer Society. Gavin, pastoral associate for youth and faith formation at OLA, has walked in the relay with her parish’s team since 2003. 

“Every year it becomes more and more personal to me,” Gavin said. Her mother battled cancer and several family members from her husband’s family have died from the disease, as well as close friends. It made fighting for a cure a cause close to her heart.

Then, like so many other events this year, the relay was canceled for in-person participation due to COVID-19. But that didn’t stop a need for a cure, so it didn’t stop Gavin. “I said, ‘You know what? Who cares. I’m going to walk,’ ” she said.

On June 7, Gavin began her own Relay For Life. Determined to keep the spirit of the relay going, she pledged to walk in various neighborhoods around the Diocese this summer until reaching her fundraising goal of $2,500. “There is nobody who hasn’t been touched by cancer,” Gavin said. “No matter who you are, we’ve all been touched by cancer.”

Ann Edwards, OLA parishioner, heard about Gavin’s pledge to walk and invited her to her neighborhood. Edwards and her neighbors had formed a walking group during the COVID-19 pandemic; it was the perfect way to socially distance while still seeing friends. She shot a message out to the group about Gavin’s walk and got a great response. Despite some rain, the two women organized a group of over 10 people.

“I was overwhelmed,” Gavin said. “Neighbors, friends, they came out their front doors and said, ‘Oh, OK, here we come!’ It was quite a group.”

The fight against cancer is just as personal for Edwards. Last year, she lost her husband, Bill, to melanoma. Even when he was sick, his optimism and spirit shined through, she said. “Parishioners named him ‘Mr. Incredi-Bill’ because he had such a great attitude and was so positive,” Edwards said. “He just had a wonderful outlook and a positive attitude.”

Bill Edwards was a well-loved member of the OLA family. Since 1999, Bill helped coordinate OLA’s children’s Liturgy of the Word. He also served his community, volunteering with North Colonie Friends of Music and other local organizations. Bill’s wife wasn’t even aware of some of his volunteering until his funeral when other volunteers came to pay their respects.

For years, Bill had been Gavin’s walking partner in the parish’s relay team. The last year he participated, the group chose the theme “The Incredibles,” after the Disney Pixar movie from which his nickname, “Mr. Incredi-Bill,” came.

Ann Edwards added that walking the relay, and walking along with Gavin, felt like “something you can do to make a difference.”

“I lost my husband last year and I have friends who are battling cancer so I think of those people when I venture out to walk and or when raising some money,” she said. “I think about the people who are fighting, not just the people who have lost their lives … (but) the ones who we lost, we honor them and remember their fight.”

In total, Gavin raised $2,203, just a little shy of her $2,500 goal. “That’s not bad,” she added, anything, after all, is one step closer to a cure. 

“My mother used to say it’s like staring down the giant when everybody shows up to walk,” said Gavin. “She was tough … we’re so close to a cure and still so far. I don’t want this (momentum) to disappear.”

If you want to make a donation to the American Cancer Society visit https://donate3.cancer.org/