File photo Several participants who have battled cancer participate in the Survivors’ Walk to kick off the Relay for Life event at the Salmon Arm fairgrounds last June.

Relay raises funds for cancer support, research

The 15th annual Relay For Life takes place Saturday, June 10 at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds.

The annual Relay For Life kicks off with a Survivor’s Walk at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 10.

The local event is itself a survivor – the last remaining 12-hour relay in the Southern Interior.

“There used to be 17 in the Southern Interior, but now there’s only two left,” said Jen Dies, event coordinator at the Salmon Arm branch of the Canadian Cancer Society. “This is our 15th annual and we are the last 12-hour event and Kamloops is the last six-hour event. Ours is still going because our community is so generous.”

In terms of team numbers, Dies says the relay is shaping up to be about the same as last year and she has extended the invitation to Vernon and Kelowna, who are now without an annual event.

There are 17 teams from Salmon Arm, Blind Bay, Sicamous and surrounding areas participating in the local event, along with one team from Vernon, one from Kelowna and one from Clearwater.

Dies says she has heard comments about keeping the event local but points out that, in terms of cancer care, it definitely is local.

“Relay for Life supports people from Salmon Arm: 643 nights were utilized at the Kelowna Rotary Lodge within the past year by patients from Salmon Arm/Shuswap, 165 from Sicamous, 66 from Enderby and 91 from Chase,” Dies says. “I want people to know that that’s keeping it local.”

The theme for this year’s Relay is “Wizard of Oz,” where “There’s No Place Like Hope,” Dies says.

“The teams that are back, are the teams that have been here since day one,” she says. “Those dedicated teams continue to be dedicated and our sponsors are just as generous as always.”

This year’s relay is back at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds, a site Dies says works well because of its accessibility.

The Survivors and Caregivers reception takes place at 10 a.m. as does registration. Opening ceremonies begin at 11, followed by a survivor/caregiver victory lap and a group photo.

A picnic lunch, entertainment and a draw take place at noon. A number of talented musicians have volunteered to keep walkers entertained and motivated – Patrick Ryley, Ryan Guilbeault, SAS Powow Dancers, Crown the Guilty, Chicken Like Birds, Blu and Kelly Hopkins, The Blind Bay Blues Band, Aimie Laws and Shoeswap Band.

Dana Thiessen will lead a couple of zumba sessions and Fire on Wheels and a Save-On Foods barbecue will be on-site to keep walkers well-fed.

The moving luminary ceremony will take place from 9:30 to 10 p.m., giving participants an opportunity to remember someone who has succumbed to the disease, honour those who are in the fight of their lives, or who have survived.

And there will be lots of surprises, Dies says.

Funds raised through the annual Relay For Life help keep the local Canadian Cancer Society office running and support its breast prosthesis bank, wig room, daffodil campaign and more.

As of Monday, May 29, 38 per cent of the $85,000 goal had been raised, with Dies asking for more community support.

“If you are asked to join a team, consider it; if an you’re asked to donate, do so generously, and if you have time on your hands, volunteer,” she says. “Cancer changes everything… and so can you.”

For more information, to enter, join a team or to donate, call 250-833-4334.