Quite frankly, I am running out of ways to describe our stellar Relay For Life. Year after year, Salmon Arm tops the chart, raising more money than much larger communities.
Some teams start early in the year, hosting a variety of events to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society – funds that go to research and come back to the community to support those who are ill. Others come on-board closer to the event but with no less enthusiasm.
While the money is big – and practical, it is the immense spirit that blows me away every year – the tears, laughter, hugs and camaraderie.
Sadly, I added another luminary to the three I have been setting alongside the relay track for the last several years, including one for my husband, another for an old and dear family friend and the third for my daughter-in-law’s mom.
One of my Toronto cousins lost his wife last month. She had lived with cancer for 18 years.
He told me that despite the challenges, she had a life of joy, accomplishment and happiness, thanks, in part, to innovative and improved treatments, attributable to funds raised for cancer research. I’m hoping the same will be said for a cousin in Scotland who has been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer and is counting on treatment to bring him a few more good years.
Which takes me to Rick Hirtle, an accountant with BDO Canada, a company which has entered a team every year since the relay began a decade ago. He shared his story of living with melanoma prior to Saturday night’s luminary ceremony.
Given about a 15 per cent chance of living at one point, Hirtle says he and his family hung onto hope, even during the darkest hours. A CT scan following his last chemo treatment in September 2010 showed no evidence of melanoma.
Helped tremendously by a Cancer Connection buddy when he was desperately ill, Hirtle is now being there for someone who is fighting a fight he knows all too well.
“Tonight is a huge reminder that there are many survivors of this disease,” he said Saturday. “Remember, hope keeps us going – so let there be hope tonight.”
Hope – that thing that springs eternal, kept alive by family, friends and volunteers. Volunteers who help those with cancer by driving them to appointments and offering support in myriad other ways, volunteers who, year after year, help set up, take down and run the event. And, of course, those who raise funds and give up a night of sleep so that others might live.
Which reminds me, Blu Hopkins and our own James Murray are looking for $5,000 next year, promising to shave off whatever hair remains on their heads if they reach the target.
To co-ordinator Jen Dies, who orchestrates this amazing event that not only raises much-needed money, but gives people the opportunity to honour loved ones and celebrate life, I offer sincere thanks and high praise. I feel very blessed to live in a community where citizens continually rise up to meet the needs of others.