Raising money for their Relay for Life team

Relay For Life embarks on an amazing race

Saturday event celebrates 15 years in fight against cancer

The Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is in its 15th year, and with fledgling participation numbers, organizers for the Trail event are breathing new life into the cancer research fundraiser.

Belinda Pitt, local leadership coordinator for the Gyro Park event, says even though it has been increasingly difficult to get people involved, there is a dedicated group of volunteers that keep it going with fresh ideas.

“It has been dwindling a little bit and it has been getting harder,” she admitted. “But we have a woman (Jenn Smith) who is with the Canadian Cancer Society out of Cranbrook and she is helping our small little committee a lot. We also try to involve all the team captains. Everyone gets a say and it is very open.”

The Trail area Relay For Life started with a bang in 2001, then known as Relay for a Friend. The Greater Trail local Canadian Cancer Society chapter raised $32,000 with a goal to double that number the following year. The group surpassed that goal in 2002, raising $68,000 with 42 teams and 515 walkers for the 12-hour event, held at Haley Park.

As recently at 2010, the event raised $91,000 and had 270 participants.

However, the early events were centralized to the region, with walkers from all over the Kootenays. Since then, Castlegar and other municipalities have been hosting their own relays.

This year, now at Gyro Park, the event has been reduced to six hours, with 86 walkers signed up four days before, and teams have raised just over a quarter of the way to their goal of $46,000.

“I know that right around this time of year, there are a lot fundraisers,” explained Pitt, giving a reason why the event has fewer participants. “People get involved in a lot of things and I think this is one of those that has been around for so long and people may say, ‘oh, it will still be there next year.’”

This year, the work of all the volunteers has translated into a new theme for the Relay For Life – The Amazing Race.

Pitt says teams and spectators all have a chance to get in the spirit of the cause and the theme.

“Each team picks a country they are going to represent and they dress up their tents and decorate them,” she said. “We also have prizes for best dressed tent, their batons and all those things. We have been trying to incorporate as much of the theme as possible. We have Canada, Egypt, The Philippines, Germany and more.”

There is also going to be a Kid’s Zone at Gyro Park, sticking with the race theme.

“Because of our theme, we are going to have sack races, wheelbarrow races, egg and spoon races and more,” she said, adding that even if you aren’t racing, she would love to see some extra people at Gyro supporting cancer research.

“Whether you are on a team or not, just come down and see what the Relay For Life is all about. There is going to be a silent auction and raffle and all that money goes right back to the cause. We just want people to come to the park.”

Greater Trail Area teams already registered for the Relay For Life have been working hard at fundraising anyway they can, setting up a charity car wash last weekend in Waneta. The GT Car Wash volunteered its self service car wash bays for the Saturday fundraiser which raised over $1,000 for the three teams that were getting soaked and soapy.

“Our car wash this weekend was super successful,” said Pitt. “It wasn’t that many cars, but there were a lot of generous people. We appreciate it all.”

Any last minute relay-ers looking to register and raise money still have a chance ahead of Saturday’s event.

“You can definitely still register,” encouraged Pitt. “Either online, or you can join a team that is already established. Whether you want to support a team or even come down on the day and register, we will still be taking both donations and registrations the day of.”

The afternoon event will also feature live entertainment and at 6 p.m., a girl whose mother has battled cancer before, Emily Dawson, will cut off her hair for all to see.

The event runs from 4 to 10 p.m. this Saturday at Gyro Park. For more information, to register, or to donate to a team, visit www.relayforlife.ca.

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