NEWBURYPORT — For a few minutes Sunday night, Bartlet Mall’s Frog Pond was aglow with floating points of light. Those who released those points of light, in the shape of illuminated lanterns, hoped that they would serve as a beacon of hope in the fight against ovarian cancer.
Cathy Scanlon, one of many who helped organize the yearly event for the Greater Newburyport Ovarian Cancer Awareness Group starting three years ago, said about 500 lanterns were sold at $10 each. Proceeds will go toward ovarian cancer research, she said.
The event, which drew hundreds of people, began around 6 p.m. with participants decorating lanterns at one of many tables set up. Calligraphers were on hand to inscribe lanterns with a message dear to the person who purchased one. People could also write their own messages.
While all this was going on, musicians, including Donna Ricci, Pam and Rob Hallock, Marilyn Miller, Kettle of Fish and others provided inspirational music. Around 7:30 p.m., when enough darkness had filled the Bartlet Mall, participants lined the banks of the Frog Pond and cast the lanterns into the water.
“I found it very moving at the end as people stood along the edge of the pond, simply watching for a long time. That was very moving,” Scanlon said.
Another organizer, Deb Green, said she and others involved were struck by how people of all ages took part.
“When we met afterward, that’s what we commented on — the variety of generations that were there,” Green said.
Both Green and Scanlon said they were heartened that the event seems to have grown beyond a fundraiser and has been woven into the fabric of the community. The first lantern festival drew about 100 participants, while last year’s event doubled that number.
“It’s really becoming a great community event,” Green said.
Green said GNOCA was formed as a way to raise awareness regarding a very deadly form of cancer that can go undetected before it’s too late.
“Ovarian cancer is one of those cancers that the symptoms are so subtle that women don’t recognize them. If they (detect) have symptoms, they might have progressed to one of the later stages, and it’s not an easy disease to treat,” Green said, adding that researchers have yet to create an effective screening test.