This year’s American Cancer Society
Relay for Life – Saturday, April 23, at Tarrant County College Southeast Campus – has three laudable goals and one lofty one.
First there’s rebranding, merging the Arlington and Mansfield events into the Southeast Tarrant County Relay. Next is laying a solid foundation for future efforts. Then comes the honoring of those most affected by cancer – victims, survivors, family, caregivers.
Less emotional but no less important is raising money for the research that organizers hope will put the event out of business. The ultimate goal, says the ACS’s Beth Anne Underwood, “is to see the day when there’s no need for the Relay because a cure has been found.”
Underwood and her volunteer team are shooting for $100,000. Last year’s two events combined brought in some $60,000, she says, “and we want to blow that out of the water.”
The separate events were combined
because the ACS found it was competing against itself for sponsors and participants. “We decided to combine our resources, do one event and do it well,” Underwood says.
This retooling sparked numerous changes, the first of which was the venue. TCC Southeast Campus provided an ideal midpoint and also came across with so many in-kind donations that it will add about $7,000 to the Relay’s bottom line.
The date and time were also tweaked. The April date was picked with the hope of drawing more college students before the semester ends.
The usual dusk-’till-dawn time frame was shortened and backed up to 3-9 p.m. to give the event more of a community festival atmosphere.
Other Relay standbys will continue.
Survivors will take the first lap around the track – actually a parking lot since the campus doesn’t have a traditional track. The second will be for caregivers – family members and others who have helped make the unbearable more bearable. Teams will then take a turn in recognition of their support, and lastly the general walking begins. The only rule is that at least one member of a team must be on the track at any time.
There’ll be plenty to occupy those who don’t happen to be walking. “Psycho” Shannon of the Kidd Kraddick radio show will be the DJ, and team members will staff booths selling food, drinks and homemade craft items. Walking continues until about 7:45 p.m., at which time participants place luminarias around the course, lighting them in remembrance of those lost to cancer. The closing ceremony urges participants to keep fighting the disease in every way possible.
Whereas the event has been mostly staff-driven in past years, the focus now is more on volunteers – people like Chair Pamela Stevens and Co-chair Lori Martin, both of whom lost close friends to cancer within the past year. “It was awful to watch what she and her poor kids were going through,” Martin says. “I felt compelled to do something.” And people like Sheila Grissom, co-chair of the survivor/caregiver committee. “I feel like caregivers, as a whole, are sometimes forgotten,” she says.
And people like Lana Bryan, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
“These events are important because it lets people know you can fight this. I know there are times when it seems there is no hope, but there is hope.”