Posted by: kimmeroo | June 18, 2012

Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

On Friday I had the privilege to help out at Sault Ste. Marie’s annual Relay for Life, the Canadian Cancer Society’s biggest fundraising event. It is a non-competitive 12 hour event, running from 7pm to 7am (after all, cancer never sleeps). Teams raise money and then spend the night at the track. It’s hard to describe the event itself, there is so much going on. At its core, it’s a 12 hour relay where team members take turns walking the track. But as I said, it is not competitive! No one is keeping track of who is walking when, a team doesn’t have to have someone walking at all times, etc.  The point is really “to get together with family and friends to celebrate cancer survivors, remember and honour loved ones lost to cancer, and fight back against this disease.” There are hundreds of people there,  many decked out in team shirts or costumes, walking the track, hanging out at their tent sites, listening to the bands, taking part in the activities, etc. One of the neat things was that many of the teams do additional fundraising at the event. So for example, some sell baked goods, one was selling raffle tickets for a gorgeous homemade dollhouse, and another was selling cookbooks they made. As one of the speakers commented, it was basically a 12 hour tailgate party!

I got involved by chance, more than anything. After being unemployed for a month or so, I was feeling the itch to start doing something more productive and to have a regular reason to get out of the house again (my husband works at home…while we love each other very much, I don’t think it was helping his concentration or productivity to have me rattling around the house during the week). I first called the Heart and Stroke Foundation and offered to volunteer doing whatever needed to be done. And was promptly rejected. Seriously. I was offering to work for FREE, no strings attached! I didn’t know that such an offer could be rejected! But apparently they were all caught up and didn’t need any help at the time. Slightly dejected, I called the Cancer Society and received an enthusiastic “Yes, we would love your help!” I began helping out in the office the following week, and ended up helping out a couple of days a week in the two months leading up to the Relay. With the Relay on the horizon, I was primarily involved in helping organize that event. It was nice to have an ultimate goal, and everyone at the Cancer Society was great fun to work with. Ironically, the main coordinator for the Relay was the daughter of my supervisor at the government who was waiting for the funding to call me back to work.

Unfortunately I had to head out of town early the morning after the Relay so I couldn’t stay through the night, but I was able to stick around long enough to get a good feel for the event. I showed up early to man the info tent for a few hours leading up to the event, and then got to go watch the opening speeches. Following the speeches, the Relay for Life gets underway with the Survivors’ Victory Lap, with survivors and their families completing the first lap around the track.

The 2012 Honourary Survivor cuts the ribbon

Survivors’ Lap about to get underway

The Survivors’ Lap was incredibly power. While I expected it to be touching, sure, I didn’t realize just how moving it would be, and found myself blinking back tears as the sea of yellow t-shirts and their families and friends walked by. It gave a clear picture of how cancer doesn’t discriminate – there were little survivors in their parents arms, teenagers, young adults, and the elderly. Really puts things in perspective. Here I am stressing out about whether I can wear certain clothes without losing 15 pounds, meanwhile 15 year olds are talking about the brain tumour they just had removed. A good reminder to stop stressing about stupid things and just live and love life!

I wanted to stick around for the luminary ceremony honouring both those who have passed and those currently fighting, but I ended up calling it a night early so I could finish packing and get a decent night’s sleep. But now that I know more about this event, I certainly plan to be there in the future, be it as a volunteer or on a team.

Finally, the timing ended up working out perfectly. The government funding came through late last week, so I was able to help out at the Cancer Society leading right up to the event, and I start back at work on Monday. Some things just seem meant to be!

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