Members of the community showed up at the SOMC Friends Community Center Friday, June 16th to fight back against cancer. The American Cancer Society sponsored a Relay for Life event where 11 teams raised money and those who lost their battle with cancer, as well as survivors of cancer were honored.
“The Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser,” American Cancer Society Senior Market Manager, Community Engagement Hilary Nichols said. “It’s a worldwide movement now. Nationwide, however, there are thousands of events across the country. Basically, this is how we raise money for our research, our programs, our advocacy, and this is how we raise money in the fight against cancer.”
This was the first year that the event was held at the Friends Center. In previous years, it has been held at the Scioto County Fairgrounds. However, no matter where the event is held, the community rallies around the cause.
“We bring it to a community level because the community members are passionate,” Nichols said.
The event is a haven for anyone who has been affected by cancer, no matter what type. The theme for this year’s relay was all colors matter.
“That’s what the American Cancer Society does, we try to help all cancers,” Nichols said. “We do research for every cancer, not just a specific type. We encompass everybody and that’s what we’re trying to do here today, is make sure everyone feels welcome.”
Although the Relay for Life is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the event relies on volunteers throughout every aspect of it.
“That’s what makes the relay,” Nichols said. “A lot of events you pay the registration fee and you participate in a walk. Here our teams, they do it all year round, they’re passionate, they run this event, they plan it, they implement it, it’s all volunteers. I’m just here kind of as a liaison and to help where needed, but it’s really volunteer based and it’s pretty unique in that way.”
The relay started with a lap for survivors, then in the second lap the caregivers of the survivors joined them, and for the third lap attendees could walk in memory of a loved one who had lost their battle to cancer.
Many of the teams who helped to fundraise for the event have felt the effects of cancer firsthand. Charlene Cox, a member of the team Gail’s Gang lost her mother Gail, who the team is named for, to ovarian cancer. Cox says that her family enjoys raising money for a cause that is so close to their hearts.
“I hope that they get lots and lots of money, I want the survivors to have a good time and just everyone have fun,” Cox said.
Grace Duduit, a member of the team DD Faith, also lost her mother to ovarian cancer, she says that her team strives to bring awareness to ovarian cancer.
I’m a big advocate for raising as much money for cancer, because ovarian cancer is one that you don’t really hear a whole lot about,” Duduit said. “So my thing is just getting awareness out about it and raising money to find cures for it. I think that’s the most important thing about this event, is having the community involved in it.”
The money raised at the event goes to fund research and programs sponsored by the American Cancer Society. One of those programs is Look Good Feel Better, which SOMC offers to its patients. The program provides wigs, beauty products, and help with cosmetic needs to patients while they are undergoing cancer treatment.
“We fit them for wigs, and they get probably $300-$400 worth of free stuff by the time they get all of the makeup, all of the moisturizers, all of the cleansers, all of that, and the wigs,” volunteer for the Look Good Feel Better program, Sandy Cable said.
Many of the people who attend the relay are survivors themselves. They are honored at the event with a dinner. Karen Hill, a two-time breast cancer survivor says that she is thankful have made it another year and to be able to attend the event with her family.
“They recognize us as survivors and the first year I was diagnosed, I wasn’t able to go because I was in the hospital with surgery for the breast cancer,” Hill said. “I’ve been to every one of them since. It’s pretty emotional. You have to have family, but the most important thing that you have to have is God, He has to come before everybody because He is who takes care of us. He gets us through all of this.”