The Waterloo Region branch of the Canadian Cancer Society will bring its Relay for Life back to St. John’s-Kilmarnock school in June, and are kicking off the festivities with a survivor appreciation luncheon in Elmira on February 17.
“It means so much to know you’re doing it for a good cause,” said Turner, who wrote a poem at last year’s Relay for Life that ends with a rallying cry: “That’s the reason you will try, and try and try and try, until you get it right and until you win the fight.”
He added, “You should get involved, because the more people we have, the more money we get.”
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“And maybe we could actually stop this thing called cancer?” interjected Carey Gallagher, co-chair of the event.
For Gallagher and co-chair Tracy Duldhardt, the Family Day luncheon represents an opportunity to launch momentum for the big event, and “celebrate our survivors and honour the courage they’ve shown” early in the season.
“Unfortunately, there are always people in the lives of those involved with the event who have been diagnosed with cancer,” said Duldhardt. For the St. John’s-Kilmarnock community, one of these cases was Leanna Bedford, a staff member who died of the disease in 2012 at age 36, when her son was just 16 months.
“That’s really what prompted the initiation of the event, and how St. John’s-Kilmarnock was willing to donate the site,” said Duldhardt. “She was on maternity leave and then had a battle with cancer, and never really came back after the maternity leave.”
She continued, “It’s a real grassroots business. … When the participants show up on the day of, and they’re there with the people they know on their team, it’s very personal.”
The Cancer Society hopes to bring 40 teams, 50 survivors, and more than 100 volunteers to the Woolwich event, with a fundraising goal set at $106,500. This is actually a conservative figure: in 2013, the event raised nearly $150,000 from a $50,000 target. (Relay for Life events across the region raised $490,000).
“The fundraising success was beyond our wildest dreams,” said Tracy Duldhardt. “It’s a personal experience for everybody. Whether you express it externally or internally, people come to this event because of how they’ve been touched, and they have the freedom at this event to celebrate, remember, fight back the way they want to.”
“It’s amazing that so many community members – not just participants, but businesses as well – really pitched in and helped us out,” said Gallagher. “I think it proves that small towns really do have the biggest hearts.”
The survivor appreciation luncheon will be held February 17 at the WMC, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in partnership with the Elmira Sugar Kings. The Relay for Life takes place at St. John’s-Kilmarnock June 20-21, and participants can sign up at www.relayforlife.ca/woolwich.