Almost everyone has a relative or friend who has suffered from cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 43,910 newly diagnosed cases and 17,720 cancer deaths were reported last year in New Jersey.
While understanding of the disease has grown, there is still much to learn. Relay for Life is a community fundraising effort sponsored by this organization to support cancer research. RVCC was the first college in this state to host one. This year’s event is its third.
“This amazing experience has changed the entire college,” says Jessica Francis, co-chair of RVCC’s Relay for Life committee. Last year the fundraiser drew 19 teams and raised $45,000. This time, she hopes to exceed $50,000.
To achieve this goal, team members have already started to recruit more participants among students, faculty, staff, friends and neighbors. For Nicole Roseman, who was a team captain last year, Relay for Life was a great experience, although she admits that organizing a group requires a lot of effort. “We are cheerleaders,” she says, which means more than just raising money. “We also motivate and educate.”
During the following weeks, the volunteers are going to promote the cause in meetings and will try to collect as much as possible. The American Cancer Society’s Eastern Division provides a standardized recognition system for the program, such as a maximum of 15 team members and the minimum of $100 of fundraising for each team. Beating this goal is a challenge for every group.
Each team has its own strategy to compete with the others, including competitions with other communities. In the end, there is a big event to celebrate the solidarity of all the people that make Relay for Life possible. It is an overnight experience that takes place all over the country. In RVCC, it will be on the soccer field on the weekend of April 27 and 28.
The main activity will be the Midnight Run. The participants will camp out and take turns walking around the soccer field all night long. Each team is asked to have a representative at all times.
This is the idea of the creator of Relay for Life, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon who decided to raise money and improve the income of his local American Cancer Society. In May of 1985, he spent a whole day circling a track and he raised $27,000.
Moreover, a candle-lighting ceremony to honor those who have died is planned. The Luminaria also offers the gift of hope to those still fighting. The entire community is invited to light a candle (the price is $10) and join others’ prayers.
It is a party where people can share experiences, says Patricia Richmond, a caregiver that has participated in the other editions of Relay for Life at RVCC. Her father died of cancer and now her daughter is newly diagnosed. For her, the experience of Relay was amazing and it proves that “hope is everlasting,” she says.
A place for everyone
Those who belong to a team have their own experiences with cancer. They may be patients, survivors, caregivers or just people who know someone diagnosed. All of them share the Relay for Life philosophy and the belief that “one person can make a difference.” No matter what is behind each story, there is a place for everyone who wants to collaborate.
For further information, the event’s web site, www.relayforlife.org, explains the event, and provides links to the groups’ sites and the opportunity to make a donation. It is also recommended to visit the American Cancer Society’s website (www.cancer.org) or call 1-800-ACS-2345 for still additional information.