The time is new, but the message and the cause for the Relay for Life are still very much the same.
“I don’t think there is any family that hasn’t been touched by cancer,” said Finn Nielsen, events volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society in Penticton.
This year the relay on is taking place May 30 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the running track at Pen High, turning the formerly overnight event into an all-day one.
“It created some issues in terms of people being able to stay,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen started volunteering with the Cancer Society after his wife couldn’t make a meeting and she suggested he go in her place.
“The president at the time suggested I become a volunteer and I did, and I’m a better person for it,” Nielsen said.
A few years later he is now handling logistics for the event which will feature live entertainment, food and of course, the relay.
“We’re trying to encourage younger participation and when you go all night, it was somewhat problematic,” Nielsen said.
Teams looking to sign up can register online at www.relayforlife.ca, and if past events are any indication, Nielsen said there should be some unique fundraising campaigns.
“There are some really cool teams in terms of their names and how they raise funds. Everything from selling cupcakes and sweets at work to going out and raising funds from family and family friends,” he said.
Teams can register the day of by 10 a.m. and opening ceremonies will be held after. This will be followed by cancer survivors starting off the relay by walking the running track at Pen High.
“The high school and the administration is very supportive of us in terms of giving us access and just providing a lot of help both from a logistical point of view and general support. So we’re lucky to have it at Pen High and also have the support of the school,” Nielsen said.
Last year’s relay raised approximately $37,000, and while it’s not a small sum of money, the donation numbers are down from previous years.
“There’s a lot of competition for donor dollars in the community and across Canada. The challenge is to have people see the Canadian Cancer Society as a destination for funding into what we hope someday will be the eradication of cancer,” Nielsen said.
One of Nielsen’s favourite causes that receives some of the funding is Camp Goodtimes located in Maple Ridge which offers a camping experiences for children fighting cancer.
“That’s one of the things I’m proudest about is the involvement with Camp Goodtimes.”
Those interested in the event don’t necessarily have to sign up as a team, or even join in the relay. There will be the opportunity on the day of the relay to donate funds.
“If you don’t have an opportunity to either form a team or be a participant on a team, there’s no reason that the public cannot drop in to the Pen High track on the day and enjoy some of the entertainment,” Nielsen said.
Local talent including Matt Duffus, Crazy Hearts, local Scottish pipers, performers from Get Bent Bellydancing, ZZ Top tribute band TR2 and Soul Sisters are going to be on hand providing live entertainment.
Local businesses have chipped in as well including the Bike Barn which has once again donated a top-of-the-line bike to be raffled off to one lucky relay participant. The Barley Mill is providing the food for a survivors lunch, where cancer survivors or those fighting cancer along with their caregivers are invited to take part in a special meal. At 10 p.m. there will be a closing ceremony where a few cancer survivors will share the story of their journey and a tribute will be made as well as a moment of silence for the lives lost to cancer.
“It’s a very moving ceremony, in fact I kind of get goosebumps just talking about it, it’s very, very impressive,” Nielsen said.
“Whether we will make our $35,000 or $45,000 goal this year is hard to say. However, it’s a wonderful event and the volunteers, which are essentially the backdrop, work very hard to make it successful.”
Relay for Life raised $40 million in Canada alone last year, with over 280 participants joining the cause. Those looking to volunteer can call 250-490-9681.