‘Relay for Life’ again tops $50,000

Once again, the local “Relay for Life” held overnight Friday at Pither’s Point was a huge success, collecting $50,120 to help fight cancer and bringing the total amount raised here over the last four years to more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars.
“Everything came off without a hitch,” said event co-ordinator Sue Danku. “The volunteers, the community, the sponsors—fabulous. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
This year, some 1,200 luminaries were sold and just over 20 teams took part—down slightly from last year. But the enthusiasm certainly was not affected.
Ken Ranta, regional director of the Canadian Cancer Society, was on hand here and thrilled with the amount of energy from the participants.
“It’s great to see so many participants, it’s always been a well-organized event,” he remarked. “The scenery is about as picturesque as you’re going to get—right on the lakeshore—and it’s great to see so many people happy, dressed up, in costume, camped out, having fun.
“It’s great.”
Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk was present for the opening ceremonies to welcome everyone. Choking up, he shared his personal experience with cancer, having lost his father to the disease five years ago.
“It’s a hugely wonderful event,” said Mayor Onichuk. “I was humbled just to be asked to welcome everybody on behalf of the town of Fort Frances.
“Kim Metke said it best, ‘Cancer has affected virtually everyone, either through family or friends.’”
For the third year, Pharmasave was the main event sponsor of the local “Relay for Life” and store manager Nancy Kehler said it was great to see how many people in the community got involved to help out.
“We really appreciate the opportunity, and it’s wonderful to see the survivors’ victory lap,” said Kehler. “Gives you lots of hope.”
One of those, Betty Newman, has been a survivor for the last 40 years, and again for four years after another bout with cancer in 2000.
Newman, who also lost her husband to cancer in 1985, has her own ritual for the relay that she’s done every year.
“I always walk with the survivors and then I make an extra trip around [to look at the names on the luminaries] and I say, ‘Oh, I remember that person,’ you know, just re-acquainting myself with them,” Newman remarked.
“It means a lot to me, and I’m sorry they’re not having it next year.”
The committee has decided to take a break from the relay next year, but they are talking to the Canadian Cancer Society to decide on a different event.
“It’s a very good cause, we should be doing it next year, too,” said cancer survivor Yvonne Chambers of the Legion Ladies Busy Bees team. “They shouldn’t be stopping it.
“My fright is that if they do stop it, they won’t have people going back again.”
But Danku said the reason to put it on hold and try something new is to generate more interest in the relay.
“We don’t want to burn it out, it’s such a great event and we’ve seen sort of a decline in teams,” she noted.
The top three fundraising teams this year were the Country Bumpkins ($4,553), followed by Team Ainsworth ($3,990, half of which was matched by Ainsworth Barwick) and the Busy Bees Legion ($3,083).