Relay for Life
- story by Ana Balka
It isn’t too late to put together a team for the 31st annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life. In Hancock County, it happens 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, April 30 at the Hancock Medical Center Walking Track, and there is a full roster of events throughout April that aim to raise more funds for the cause.
Relay for Life began in 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt of Tacoma, Washington ran around a track for 24 hours and collected $27,000 in donations for his local American Cancer Society.
The following year, teams joined him on the track, and since then the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life has evolved into an international event with volunteers in more than 5200 communities raising upwards of $400 million for cancer research and advocacy programs each year.
Talk of the Town
“We need lots of teams who are willing to hit the ground running with fundraisers,” says Ashley Mayley, sponsorship co-chair with her dad, Dave Mayley, who is also Hancock County Relay for Life’s event logistics coordinator. Dave become involved through Rotary Club in the early 2000s, and Ashley has been helping him “as long as I can remember,” she says.
Over 20 teams are currently signed up, and the goal is 35 teams. There are also numerous sponsorship opportunities, and people may also purchase luminarias, signs, tiki torches, or sky lanterns to honor loved ones during closing ceremonies on April 30.
Teams have already been busy through March with fundraisers — from bake sales to pizza parties — and will continue through April with events like Team Waveland’s garage sale at the Waveland Fire Department on April 9 and Waveland Walmart’s “Stick it to Cancer” stickball tournament April 16. Keep an eye on Hancock County’s Relay for Life website and Facebook page, as well as the Cleaver’s Community Calendar for more event announcements.
A good portion of funds help people right here in Hancock County through advocacy programs, like:
“The treatments are sometimes as bad as the disease,” says retired oncology nurse Bernie Cullen. She lauds local advocacy programs like Look Good... Feel Better for assisting patients through the side effects of chemotherapy, for example, which may bring feelings of isolation and self-consciousness. Something as simple as a wig can make a big difference in a patient’s life.
April 30 Schedule Of Events:
10:00am - Opening Ceremonies
10:45 - Henderson Ford's Drive For Your Community
11:00 - Band - To Be Announced
11:30 - Survivor Reception
1:00pm - Water Balloon Toss
2:30 - Dance Group - To Be Announced
4:00 - Scavenger Hunt
6:30 - Zumba & Line Dancing Class
8:00 - Luminaria Ceremony, Survivor Speech
9:00 - Womanless Beauty Pageant
10:00pm - Closing Ceremonies
Awards (1st Place ONLY):
Your Donations Make a Difference
Cancer is especially tough on those handling it alone, Cullen says. “I have a place in my heart for survivors and caregivers,” she says. “People do better when they have a lot of support.”
Survivors’ Celebration follows the day’s opening ceremony, the Survivor Walk, for which survivors and caregivers walk a lap around the track at 10 a.m. Following opening ceremonies and until event’s end, members of all participating Hancock County teams take shifts walking or jogging around the track.
Participating teams set up camps and booths around the track. Each year has a theme, and this year is Disney. “We encourage the teams to build elaborate campsites,” says Dave. Prizes and trophies given out at the end of the night, with best campsite and best costume among the categories recognized, as well as awards going to top individual and team fundraisers.
Team camps are decked out with everything from food sales to spacewalks, and the packed schedule includes the music of Phil “Smooth” Williams and the Electric Sheep, a water balloon toss, scavenger hunt, Zumba and line dancing, a fun (and funny!) womanless beauty pageant, and a lot more.
The volunteers each expressed gratitude for Relay for Life and for the teams of volunteers with whom they work to make it happen here in Hancock County. “It’s a great community event,” Dave says. “There’s not a person on this planet that hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way. I’m proud to be a part of Relay.”
“I love this program,” says Bernie, “and one reason is that it is the only event that benefits all types of cancer. ... To be able to work for an event where everybody benefits is really important to me.”