Relay for Life begins Friday

GLADSTONE – Cancer survivors and supporters of their fight will have a chance to raise money and awareness at the 2014 Relay For Life of Delta County.

The event will begin at 1 p.m. Friday at Marble Athletic Field in Gladstone and will continue until 1 p.m. Saturday. Teams and individuals will walk the track for the majority of the 24-hour event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society and local cancer charities.

“It goes for research, because obviously research is very important; it goes to fund a place called Hope Lodge,” said Traci Corrigan, event co-chair.

Hope Lodge, a project of the American Cancer Society, offers patients and their caregivers a free place to stay while receiving treatment away from home.

Last year’s Delta County Relay For Life raised $43,000 – almost exactly the value of Hope Lodge stays used by Delta County cancer patients that year.

“We thought it was pretty cool that we had paid for all the stays in Delta County,” said Corrigan.

Money raised by the relay will also help support the Look Good, Feel Better program. The program, which is held at and in conjunction with OSF St. Francis Hospital, gives makeup and teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the effects that cancer has on their physical appearance.

“It sort of helps them work through that,” said Corrigan, noting changes in appearance can be particularly challenging for women undergoing cancer treatment.

While the issue of raising money and awareness for cancer research and patients is serious business, that doesn’t mean that Relay For Life has to be.

“The games and the fundraisers at the track are all carnival themed,” said Corrigan.

In addition to themed laps and decorations, each team is encouraged to host a mini-fundraiser of their own during the event. Games, items, activities, and food keep relay participants entertained throughout the 24-hour event.

“I think we have about 20 teams that are each doing their own fundraisers at the track so there’s lots of things to do,” said Corrigan.

Walkers will also be able to enjoy a pizza buffet at midnight, s’mores in the early morning hours, and a 24-hour concession stand.

A raffle will be held Saturday morning. Tickets for the raffle are $1 and prizes will be $500, $300, and $200.

“There’s 2,000 tickets so you have a one in 2,000 chance of winning,” said Corrigan.

Special laps and ceremonies will also be held throughout the event to honor cancer survivors, caregivers, and those that have lost the battle.

During the Luminaria Ceremony, held at 10 p.m., luminaria are lit in honor of those affected by cancer. The luminaria can be purchased to honor a specific individual, and all luminaria remain lit throughout the night to guide the paths of walkers.

This year’s special speaker at the Delta County Relay For Life will be Jon Giese, chief of the Ford River Fire Department, who is currently battling lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“The fire department has a team that’s coming out to support him,” said Corrigan.

Other teams at the event have their own reasons to fight against cancer by participating in Relay For Life.

“We actually have three or four teams from Bark River-Harris Schools this year that have kind of challenged each other to come out and make a difference,” said Corrigan, adding she hoped that spirit would spread to other schools in the coming years.