Have you ever heard of Relay for Life? Have you ever noticed those folks that wear the Survivor or "I am Hope" t-shirts? Have you ever been curious of what it is all about? Have you ever noticed and thought- that doesn't have anything to do with me I don't have cancer. But actually....it does. We have all in some way, shape or form been touched by cancer. Whether it is our self, a family member, a friend, co-worker, or a friend of a friend of a friend. It does touch us in some way. A family member is in the hospital facing surgery. A co-worker is out due to treatments. A child is far away from home in a hospital fighting for their life. A person stands above a grave with tears streaming missing that loved one.
Relay for Life is the main fundraising arm of the American Cancer Society but it is much more than that. Here are some of the things that I as a member of the East Gaston Relay for Life have learned personally about Relay for Life, not in order of their importance.
Relay is yes, a fundraiser- while much of the money raised goes to help fund research for a cure there are other things that money helps. There are programs set up such as the "Look good-feel good" where there are people who help cancer fighters -look good- through wigs, scarves, make-up. There are phone numbers and web sites set up with people manning them to offer information and assistance. There are rider programs that get the fighter back and forth to doctor visits and to get their medicines. This to name just a few examples.
Relay is in itself educational. Often times the monthly meetings will have a guest speaker. The speaker will share information on other Relay events, the programs offered, how the money is spent, of the things offered by the American Cancer Society and of the many ways to battle a terrible disease. To name just a few.
Relay offers the fighter/survivor a chance to meet some of the people who are fighting for them. It offers them the chance to meet other survivors and know that when it may feel as if they are alone- in truth they are not.
Relay through the year has teams that put on fund-raising events that allow fighter, caregiver, and others a chance to come together, to have some fun and to support Relay but participating in what-ever the event at that time may be. Whether it is a barbecue, hot dog or candy sale. Whether it is a car show, a motorcycle run or golf game.
Relay offers the community at large a chance to come together in an event that goes through the night. An event filled with fun and laughter, where more than a few tears are shared. It offers music, song and dance. It offers demonstrations. It offers challenges. It offers those attending a chance to donate, to purchase items in various ways with the money going to Relay, to purchase raffle tickets on some interesting items where all are winners. Relay, the winning ticket purchaser and those who were able to donate even that one dollar.
Relay for Life is not just a fundraiser. The people that join together to form teams, to form an event become much more than that. They become family. They know the survivors, they know the caregivers. A bond is formed and strengthened by the caring hearts that attend and work toward a common goal. They work together, they share, they fight for the life of those affected. They laugh, they cry and they pray together. They work together to raise money for the ACS in the hope of finding that cure, of finding the ways to prevent, of creating more birthdays and celebrating lives and hope.
Relay is not just a cancer thing-- it is a community thing. Because cancer touches us all.