Manitoulin Relay for Life exceeds goal of $30,000

M’CHIGEENG—Almost two dozen teams, primarily high school students, set up tents, strummed guitars, and tossed Frisbees leading up to the fifth Relay for Life held at MSS from Friday May, 30 and Saturday, May 31.

Relay for Life states on its Facebook page that the event “is an inspirational, non-competitive 12-hour overnight fundraising event that brings you and your community together to celebrate life and fight cancer. At Relay, teams gather with cancer survivors at their local school and take turns walking laps all night. Teams stay overnight in the decorated tent city, united to enjoy music, food, activities and entertainment.”

Organizers including Leslie Marshall and Karlene Scott registered participants, handed out wristbands and t-shirts proclaiming ‘I Love Relay for Life’ and assigned spaces for setting up tents.

Opening ceremonies included shared moments of loved ones’ battles with cancer featuring committee student chair Jessica Jordison and guest speaker Jacob Mackan, whose team, Jake’s Snakes, led by brother Lucas, paid tribute to his father Kevin (aka Jake) who passed away three years ago.

In keeping with tradition, the first lap of the evening, The Victory Lap, was walked by the survivors who proudly walked holding a banner, ‘2014 Survivors Relay for Life.’

Luminaries that lined the track were lit by students prior to a special ceremony held shortly after 10 pm and were kept burning throughout the night. Walkers and runners took time out from the relay to read the special messages written in memory of those who had lost the fight.

While people walked or ran the track during the 12-hour relay, music played throughout the night. Other entertainment included music by band Double Barrel, Casey Boisvert leading Zumba, a silent auction, and a viewing of the movie ‘Frozen.’ Food was available along with a welcoming cup of Loco Beanz coffee or hot chocolate.

At approximately 2 am, Master of Ceremonies and MSS teacher Chris Theijsmeijer announced that organizers were $4,000 short of the $30,000 goal. Within minutes, the goal was not only reached, but surpassed. A total of $31,249.30 was raised. A loud cheer rang out among all participants.

Twenty teams registered with over 200 participants.

I was on one of those teams. Friend Anya Wright posted on her Facebook page on May 1 asking if anyone would be interested in joining Cathy Joyce’s team. I had participated in two prior Relays so responded that I would love to be on the team. Registration online was quick and easy and it was not long before the donations came in for our team.

Cathy Joyce lost her brother James only four months earlier to cancer. Special memories were lovingly shared among our team as we blew up balloons, set up tents, listened to music, tied legs together for the three legged race and took turns walking around the track.

Ms. Wright was walking for her grandfather, who passed away from cancer, her grandmother, who is still living today and a good friend, but who is also battling the disease. Ms. Wright said she would “definitely do it (Relay for Life) again” and will encourage her 16-month-old daughter to walk as it would be something fun and meaningful to do together.

Team member Gloria Hall, who works with Ms. Joyce, has done the Relay at MSS twice before. She became interested in Relay through her son James, who took part in Sudbury’s event held at Laurentian University every June.

Ms. Hall walks for the people who survived and some who have died, including a grandparent, friends, an aunt and an uncle.

As president of the Western Manitoulin Cancer Society, Ms. Hall knows how hard volunteers work. “Whether it is cancer, kidney or lung disease, they all need volunteers to raise money for research to find a cure for these terrible diseases.”

Ms. Hall was very pleased to see the number of young people interested in a good cause. The majority of the teams were made up of high school students. “It’s fantastic to see the support they give to it.”

My walk was for my father, aunt, grandmother and other family members who survived cancer, but have since passed on.

Participants were kept alert and entertained by switching it up throughout the evening by changing the direction in which they were walking, carrying another member piggy back, three-legged race, Olympic games including water balloon toss and a friendly game of Jenga.

A contest was held for the best decorated tent city, which went to the Super Hero Mamas led by team captain Tammy Rolston. Second was Team Lanktree’s Stubborn Survivors lead by Anne-Marie Corbiere.

The next Relay for Life is scheduled for 2016.