For most three year olds, the hospital is a foreign and very scary place. For Stacey Frey, it was practically a second home.
Frey, who is now in her fifth year at Elmira District Secondary School, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just two years old. By three, she had gone through chemotherapy and was no stranger to the local hospital. But her memory of her experience with the disease includes only flashes of reflection; she remembers entering the MRI machine and thinking that it was some sort of monster, and she remembers riding her IV pole down the hallways of the hospital while her dad pushed.
“At that age you don’t really understand,” she explained. Since that time, the disease has visited her household a number of times. Members of her family have battled cancer of the breast, bladder, bone, skin, lung and prostate.
Now, a survivor and spokesperson for the Canadian Cancer Society, Frey is one of two students in charge of organizing the annual cancer care fundraiser, Relay for Life.
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Relay for Live gives participants a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and help combat the disease. At the event, teams of students will camp out at the Woolwich Memorial Centre and take turns walking or running around the track. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length; EDSS participants will be walking from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
In her first year at the school, Frey participated in the walk that was so close to her heart. In Grade 11, she took on a more significant role and volunteered at the event. This year, she asked her friend Kurtis Rempel to help her in running it, and the two have been busy marketing the event, organizing pledge forms, getting T-shirts for participants and working with the WMC to figure out logistics for the big night.
Frey and other cancer survivors from the community are invited to start the night with a survivors’ lap – a time when cancer survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories they’ve achieved over cancer.
But before the event can occur, the team still needs to sort out a few logistical issues. Because the school’s track is under construction, the event will be moving to the Woolwich Memorial Centre, but currently the facility is not able to staff the event overnight; leaving the group without access to power, washrooms, or a place for the survivors and volunteers to rest their heels between laps.
“We are not quite sure what to do,” explained Frey. “We are allowed to use up to eight per cent of the donations for administrative things like renting public toilets, but the more money that goes towards those things, the less goes towards the charity itself, so we would rather not.”
The organizers are still looking for volunteers, donations and participants in the event; those who are interested should contact EDSS. Frey and Rempel are encouraging participants to donate at least $100 each and this year they are hoping for at least 60 teams of students to sign up.
“It’s amazing to see how many people come out to this event,” said Rempel. “Practically everyone from our school comes out. It’s not a popularity contest and the cliques seem to disappear – everyone is there.”
“Everyone seems to be affected by cancer in some way,” said Frey.
In 2008, students at EDSS raised more than $94,000 – the highest amount from any high school in Canada. This year, they have set their sights on a goal of $100,000.
This year, Relay for Life will be held on May 28, starting at 7 p.m.