This year at St. Cecelia's School in Galloway, two students' desks have been filled with teddy bears to remind their classmates of their absence.

This year at St. Cecelia's School in Galloway, two students' desks have been filled with teddy bears to remind their classmates of their absence.

The classmates fill the teddy bears' backpacks with cards, candy or other treats to send to the students, who have missed much of this school year as they battle cancer.

The students' battles also have inspired their peers to form the St. Cecelia's Crusaders, a team of eight who will participate in this year's Relay For Life at St. Francis DeSales High School, scheduled to take place from noon Saturday, May 2, to noon Sunday, May 3.

In turn, the St. Cecelia's Crusaders have inspired DeSales to add a new event to its fourth annual Relay For Life, a teddy bear lap to honor children with cancer.

During the lap, cancer patients from Nationwide Children's Hospital will carry teddy bears around the track, said DeSales spokeswoman Karen Cofojohn. DeSales students also have been encouraged to bring extra teddy bears so everyone walking during the lap will have a bear.

Having two students with cancer this year has taught St. Cecelia's students that the disease can touch anyone and how to support someone who is fighting cancer.

"It hit home," said teacher Dave Oddi. "It could happen to anyone, and you have be there with them."

Because the students have been absent so often from school, and because their absence has been made conspicuous by the teddy bears, the students also have learned to value the time that they have to spend with their friends.

"You never know what could happen and you're not going to see each other for awhile," Oddi said.

Also at this year's Relay For Life, there will be the traditional survivors lap at noon Saturday, which will be followed by a survivor's luncheon; a stylist will be at the event at 1 p.m. to cut hair for Locks of Love; and there will be a silent auction from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

So far this year, more than 30 teams comprising nearly 300 people have signed up to participate in the event.

Over the past three years, DeSales' relay event, officially dubbed the Hopes' Angels Relay for Life, has raised more than $130,000 for the American Cancer Society.

The event was first held in 2006 in honor of Barbara O'Riordan, who had taught at DeSales for more than 20 years before losing her battle with ovarian cancer.

For more information on this year's Relay For Life, visit the St. Francis DeSales' Web site at www.cdeducation.org/schools/ds.

jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com