At 33 years old, Ellen Donovan Samia, a Shrewsbury resident, was an active and healthy woman with two young children. She had never smoked and wasn't exposed to any known cancer-causing agents.
But in 2003, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. After almost six years of being cancer free, it returned to her lungs, spread throughout her body, and she lost her battle in 2010.
Samia's sister Kate Cleary and sister-in-law Sharon Corazzini started hosting a local version of Shine a Light Vigil six months after Samia's death.
As Corazzini explains, the Shine A Light movement originated in Boston six years ago.
"What began as a handful of dedicated volunteers on the steps of the capitol quickly grew to an annual event with hundreds of participants lighting up the Prudential Building in downtown Boston," she said.
In 2009, the program expanded nationally across the US. Last year, the Shine A Light on Lung Cancer Vigil expanded internationally with vigils in Australia and in army bases in the MidEast.
The third annual Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil takes place on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mary's Church.
The event is part of a national effort to support those impacted by lung cancer. It is possible to sponsor a particular participant in their fundraising goal, but the event itself is to "ease the burden of all those impacted by lung cancer and connect our community in a national call to action."
The Shrewsbury vigil, as it says on its website, "will provide hope and compassion and empower attendees to join our historic movement to reduce lung cancer mortality by 50 percent by 2020."
On Nov. 15, participants are encouraged to honor those who have been impacted by lung cancer by lighting a glow stick as well as sharing experiences. There is no fee to join in the vigil.
This year,the event includes the Lilly Oncology on Canvas Art Exhibit, a program of speakers, raffles, light sticks, bracelets, and a music performance by John Donovan, Jack Cleary and Michael Thibodeau.
"Ellen was dedicated to supporting others like herself that were affected by lung cancer," said Corazzini. "She appeared on the Jimmy Fund Telethon in August 2009 with her nurse from Dana Farber to share her story."
Many attendees of the event, said Corazzini, knew and loved Ellen.
"However," she added, "we decided last year to make a conscious effort to make the event about offering hope to people facing this disease rather than making it a memorial service. Ellen herself would have supported this approach. She never liked to draw attention to herself but was always giving of her time to others."