The annual Relay for Life is heading into the light.
For the first time in its 12-year history in Salmon Arm, the relay to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society will be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 13.
“We know 13 hours overnight was a huge commitment from the community, the teams and volunteers,” says Jennifer Dies, co-ordinator of Community Giving for the society.
Dies says the American Cancer Society switched up the hours in a pilot project this year.
She says she is not sure how the project reflected on fundraising or numbers, but people did appreciate the flexibility.
Dies remains ambivalent about the time change.
“I think four in the morning when the sun is coming up is what hope looks like,” she says, pointing out the event with darkness represents the struggle that is cancer. “But, I know this is a fundraising event and the bottom line is we need to continue raising the funds to continue making a difference.”
Dies is hoping area residents will also favour the time change and be willing to participate.
“I want the community to know we’ve made the change to make it more appealing and accommodating for families and the community at large to get involved,” she says. “There’s no more excuses.”
This is Dies seventh year organizing Relay for Life events.
She started as volunteer co-ordinator nine years ago, sat on the committee the following year and then got the contract for the Salmon Arm event.
This is her fourth year organizing multiple events – Kelowna and Penticton relays, Daffodil Dash events in Revelstoke and Osoyoos and a Cops for Cancer Bike Tour out of Penticton.
Some smaller communities are moving from a 12-hour relay into a five- and 10-kilometre run known as the Daffodil Dash, which will coincide with the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Campaign in April.
“The year I went to relay as a participant was one of the most significant, moving things I’d ever been to, and I went home the next morning and said I’ll never miss it,” Dies says, tears welling at the memory. “Everyone was connected; they were all there for the same reason. Everyone was so supportive but the event experience was so overwhelming.”
That year, her mom had been diagnosed with cancer and other family members have died because of the disease, making the experience especially raw and significant.
Thankful her mom is a survivor, Dies says participating in the relay provides a sense of community and support.
“And seeing the years of survivorship for people who have been recently diagnosed is an incredible boost in seeing the hope,” she says.
The Lineup of Hope has been a successful and important feature of the relay for the past two years.
All the people diagnosed within the last year are called to the front of the stage prior to the victory lap, and stand with their backs to the stage.
Survivors line up behind them. Then the people in the front row, turn around see all the survivors behind them.
“It gives them hope,” she says, tearing up again. “I am so emotionally connected to the event. And obviously I have somebody else deliver that speech, because I can’t.”
Dies says Columbia Shuswap Regional District director Paul Demenok has done the talking for her in the past.
“His wife Sue is one of my phenomenal volunteers and they bring a great crew from Blind Bay,” she says. “They’ve totally taken over the survivor development part of the committee.”
Not only do Aly Clifton, Beth Olsen and Sue look after the survivor and caregivers’ reception, they send out invitations and arrange for the shuttle bus service for volunteers and their caregivers.
“They organize the reception, entertainment and food for the survivors and caregivers; it’s amazing what they’ve done, it truly honours them,” Dies says, noting Shuswap Kids Club lends their bus for the shuttle.
She is grateful, too, for the amazing support organizers receive and hopes it continues to grow with the changes.
“We’re hoping families with kids of all ages will take part this year,” she says. “There will be concessions, entertainment, lots of activities and, logistically, it should be easier.”
Dies says she has a good base of awesome volunteers but more are always welcome.
Registration is already open for the June 13 relay and the theme this year is “Good versus Evil.”
Register your team at www.relayforlife.ca and enter Salmon Arm. For more information, call Jen Dies at 250-833-4085.