‘Relay for Life‘ always a success

Every dollar counts in the fight against cancer because, as their slogan underlines, “Cancer never sleeps.”
So even though this year‘s “Relay for Life” didn‘t raise as much money as in years past, participant and cancer survivor Kyleigh Ossachuk said it’s no matter to be concerned with because every little bit is a big help.
“People need to know how much their donations mean to someone like myself—we need them to keep giving,” Ossachuk stressed. “Cancer doesn’t stop growing or just die down—we need this [‘Relay‘].”
This year’s “Relay for Life,” which ran from 7 p.m. on Friday to 7 a.m. on Saturday out at Pither’s Point Park, brought in $48,500 for the Canadian Cancer Society—with some pledges still needing to be tallied up by organizers.
Chairperson Nadine Johnson said she expects once they’ve finalized everything, the figure will be closer to the $50,000 mark, which she feels is exceptional considering all the community fundraising recently.
Local residents have been busy donating lately to large development campaigns here, such as the “Just Imagine” campaign for a CT Scanner at La Verendrye Hospital and now the “Building for the Future” drive to build a new library.
“With all of these events going on, I didn’t expect to raise as much money,” Johnson said. “This community is phenomenal—they support everything.”
About 70 cancer survivors and their families kicked off the event with a “Victory Lap.” The 22 registered teams (two less than last year) followed behind and then continued walking throughout the night.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a warm, starlit evening as the rain and thunderstorms that had been forecast never materialized.
“It was some of the best weather we‘ve had to date,” Johnson enthused.
The opening ceremony featured a performance by the Fort Dance Studio‘s Ukrainian dancers.
They were followed by remarks from dignitaries, including Coun. Tanis Drysdale (on behalf of Mayor Roy Avis and council), local MPP Howard Hampton, and Wanda Botsford (for local MP Ken Boshcoff).
Pastor Brian Keffer gave the blessing.
“I think every one of us here tonight know why we are here—it‘s because we’ve known someone with cancer,” said Hampton. “Whether it was a son, a daughter, a mom, a dad, a grandparent, or friend, it [cancer] has touched us.
“So let’s go fight it.”
Fort Frances Museum curator Pam Hawley, a cancer survivor herself, participated in the “Relay” with her family and friends. Both she and her sister, Val Cain, shaved their heads for the cause—raising a grand total of $1,300.
Johnson noted the top fundraiser this year was Linda Angus ($4,000). She had been the top fundraiser last year with $3,200.
The Rainy Lake Highlanders, followed by the Legion colour guard, led the official start of the “Relay.”
Survivors wore blue T-shirts with a white flower on them while others wore costumes and carried flags. Members of Energy Fitness, for instance, came dressed in hula skirts and brightly-coloured leis.
Hampton was dressed as Zorro while the rest of his crew sported stylish Mexican sombreros.
The “Pink Attitoode” team carried a large pink canoe and fishing rods around the track. And the “Ya-Ya Sister Soldiers” marched and sang salutes against cancer.
Cowboys and prom queens also paraded around the track.
There also was a variety of evening entertainment, including Jackie Lampi-Hughes‘ limbo contest, performances by several local bands, including the Fort Frances Highlanders, Night Shift, and Jack, Diane Maxey and her bell choir, and Amber Hoszowski singing for the crowd.
The entertainment came to a brief halt at 10 p.m. for the lighting of the luminaries—held in honour of those who have passed away from cancer and those who are still fighting the disease.
“It‘s absolutely breathtaking to see all the candles glowing through the night,” Johnson said.
Enough activities were planned to keep everyone hopping all night long, with Karaoke being the biggest hit this year. There also was a campfire in the middle of the field, a frozen T-shirt contest, bocci ball, and many more games.
“This year‘s activities really kept everyone going and that was the plan,” said Johnson. “I think this made a big difference for everyone because it kept everyone interested in what was going on.”
Members of the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club served breakfast shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday.
It hasn‘t been decided yet whether “Relay” will happen again next June. After 2004, organizers had opted to hold it in alternating years in an attempt to retain people’s interest in the event.
But Ossachuk, who was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago, believes events like “Relay for Life” are important in our community because they give people fighting cancer hope and determination to continue.
“People need to know that the community supports them and with the right mindset, it’s possible to beat anything,” she noted.
As such, she hopes the organizers—and community—will continue this tradition into the future.
“I want to be able to continue giving back to cancer research in hope that other people will be as lucky as I was,” Ossachuk said.