Relay For Life organizers seek to grow event
At 28, Cassandra Harvey has participated in the majority of the American Cancer Society's Relays For Life in Duluth. "It was the highlight of my year growing up," the Duluth woman said. Relay For Life was founded in 1985 in Duluth has taken place...
At 28, Cassandra Harvey has participated in the majority of the American Cancer Society’s Relays For Life in Duluth.
“It was the highlight of my year growing up,” the Duluth woman said.
Relay For Life was founded in 1985 in Duluth has taken place for more than 20 years, the American Cancer Society’s Sara Mowchan said at an event kickoff on Monday evening.
It’s a simple formula: People form teams of any size (typically between five and 20 people) and raise money ahead of the event. The money goes to help the nonprofit’s work to support people with cancer and to fund research.
The relay itself is a celebration in which participants walk or run with each team having a representative on the track at all times.
Monday’s event, staged for a small but ardent crowd in the auditorium at St. Luke’s hospital, was intended to get people started on the task of forming teams and beginning to raise funds ahead of the event, which will take place from 4 p.m. to midnight on July 17 at The College of St. Scholastica.
For Harvey, as for many participants, the motivation is personal.
Her older sister was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3, her younger sister with lymphoma at age 21. Both are survivors. The family appreciates the resources and support they’ve gotten from the American Cancer Society, Harvey said.
Relay For Life also helps raise money for research. That’s crucial, said Dr. Basem Goueli, director of the St. Luke’s Regional Cancer Center, because overall research funding has dried up.
“We’re losing an entire generation of scientists,” said Goueli, in addressing the kickoff event. “All of the advances that we’re making will not be there 5, 10, 20 years from now because the funding is not there. So events like Relay For Life are profoundly important.”
Duluth is among 6,100 communities in the U.S. and 20 other countries with a Relay For Life. But the American Cancer Society is seeking to revitalize the event in Duluth, Mowchan said.
“We’re getting it back after a few years of it getting smaller, and now we’re growing it again,” Mowchan said. “So this year we’re hoping for a much bigger turnout.”
More than 200 people comprising 23 teams participated in last year’s Relay for Life, Mowchan said, and they raised $55,000. This year’s goal is for 300 or more participants to raise $60,000.
The American Cancer Society is devoting more resources to Duluth and increasing publicity efforts, she said.
It also will be shorter than in the past, shrinking from 12 hours to six hours.
The shorter time is a concession to the fact that 12 hours can be daunting, especially for some of the cancer survivors who participate, Mowchan said.
Harvey gets that, she said. But she admitted to being a little nostalgic about that all-night relay.
“I think I’ll miss the 2 a.m.,” the 28-year-old Duluth woman said. “I was always: Let’s do the 2 a.m. slot.”
To learn more
To get involved with Relay For Life, call (800) 227-2345 or visit RelayForLife.org/duluthmn .