The inspirational event in the fight against cancer that is the Relay for Life gets a decidedly Woolwich flavour this year. Residents Carey Gallagher and Tracy Duldhardt are co-chairing the first-ever community version – there have been student-driven events held at Elmira District Secondary School in the past – thanks to a growing community and the story of one woman.Tracy Duldhardt and Carey Gallagher are co-chairing the first community Relay for Life event in Woolwich taking place June 21-22. A
personal story of loss and growing dynamicity in the township finally swayed the Canadian Cancer Society into giving organizers the green
“Relay, once you do it you feel very much connected to the experience, it’s a very meaningful event,” said Duldhardt, who has participated in past events.
Relay for Life is a12-hour overnight fundraising event that brings supporters together in support of issues surrounding cancer.
Both women work on staff at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School and have applied to hold the event locally in the past with unsuccessful results. This year they presented the Canadian Cancer Society with a strong argument, a venture made all the more powerful through their own connection with a victim of cancer. An SJK employee and good friend Leanna Bedford, 36, of Cambridge succumbed to cancer in 2012.
“Leanna had cervical cancer and she fought it for about a year and four months or just under a year-and-a-half. They realized that something was going on when she was getting to the end of her first pregnancy.”
“In May  when [her son] Dylan was 16 months old, she passed away. That was moving for us because we’re both young parents and that’s pretty much the power behind where we’re coming from,” Duldhardt said.
The local branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, which oversees Relay for Life events in the region, has agreed to an event in the township.
“We told them Leanna’s story. We talked about the changes in Woolwich and the size of the community. That was really the point where the Cancer Society finally said ‘yeah, this is going to work.’”
As Tuesday, organizers counted 16 Woolwich teams that have already signed up for the event.
Both women and many of the 15 committee members have attended previous relays but are happy to see a their efforts come to fruition on a local front.
“This [process] has been really cool because, although we’ve tried a number of times, I think it’s really amazing that it’s on the heels of Leanna passing away, because we’ve been able to channel our grief into fighting back,” Gallagher said.
The organizers’ success so far has been due to the family and friends (including those close to Bedford) becoming the backbone of the initiative. Many staff members at SJK are also lending a hand and the school is donating the venue for the event. But that’s not the goal, the co-chairs agree.
“The big picture is to show that the smallest towns can have the biggest hearts,” Duldhardt said.
The Woolwich event takes place on June 21 at St. John’s- Kilmarnock School at 2201 Shantz Station Rd. in Breslau and runs from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. For information contact email@example.com. There is also a public information session planned for April 20 starting 10:30 a.m. at Greenway Blooming Centre and again on April 23 starting 7:30 p.m. at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.