Wet weather couldn't dampen cancer fundraising efforts

Rachel Selkirk
By Rachel Selkirk
June 1st, 2011

 On Saturday, hundreds of cancer survivors and members of the community came together to fight back against cancer in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Despite unfavourable weather conditions, approximately 400 participants, cancer survivors, and volunteers gathered at Haley Park for the 12 hour walking relay. This year was the eleventh event for the Greater Trail Area.


“Relay for Life is the Canadian Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event. It’s a unique opportunity to celebrate cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost and fight back against cancer,” said Tara Kowalchuk, local Revenue Development Coordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society.


The non-competitive event challenges participants to raise funds up to year before the actual relay. Teams do everything from car washes and bake sales to garage sales and more creative ideas. “One of the teams this year made tutus and sold them” said Kowalchuk. Other teams participate in “flocking” by covering a neighbour’s lawn with plastic flamingos and asking for a donation to remove them.


The sky’s the limit for team fundraising. This year was no exception with two top teams raising over $8 000 each.


According to Kowalchuk, the relay itself is a showcase event for the community. “Teams spread awareness year-round and they come together and bring the atmosphere of the event.”


Individual teams each choose a theme, decorated team banners and relay batons, and transform team tents into cupcakes, pirate ships and everything in between.


The relay begins with an inspirational lap of the track completed by cancer survivors and caregivers. With a subsequent lap completed by all the participants, teams are then challenged to keep at least one team member lapping the track for the next 12 hours.


Participants this year were entertained throughout the day by live entertainment. Dancers, singers, and live aerobic classes kept spirits high in the rain.


Often participants are inspired to participate in the event because they know someone who is fighting or cancer or has lost the battle. Loved ones lost and current fighters are remembered with the luminary ceremony at dusk. Decorated fire-resistant bags are illuminated with a candle and line the track for the final lap of remembrance.


Fundraising continues to be done right through to twelfth hour of the relay with many teams creatively choose a fundraising activity to do on site. This year, face painting, cupcake decorating, and massages were some of ways community members and relay participants could keep giving back and raising funds while enjoying their day.


While fundraising is central to the event, celebration and awareness is also crucial.


“The relay is important because it really raises awareness of different issues around cancer. It raises the awareness of how many people are surviving cancer, the survivors come out and it’s wonderful to see all the people and progress that we have made.”


Money raised is used for research, awareness, and community programs across Canada. In the 1960s, only 30% of those diagnosed with cancer survived. Now 60% of people diagnosed will survive. Much of this success is attributed to successes resulting from fundraising done by the Cancer Society.


For the third year in a row, rain hindered participation in the event.


“The rain wasn’t awesome. We usually have people who aren’t participants come on site and check out the event. I think it kept a lot of those people away,” Kowalchuk commented.


Although the community turn-out was low, teams persevered and early numbers show it was an extremely successful event with a fundraising total of approximately $82 000.


“The Trail event was extremely successful this year. It looks like we exceeded our goal by about $15 000.”


To date, only five other teams in BC have met or exceeded their fundraising goal.

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