‘Relay for Life’ raises over $69,000

Heather Latter

A sense of renewed energy was visible Friday night during the annual “Relay for Life” at Fort Frances High School, with participants raising more than $69,000, exceeding last year’s total of $54,000.
“We’re very pleased,” stressed “Relay” co-chair Jennifer Anderson. “We beat our target, which of course was a little bit higher than the year before. We were aiming for about $60,000, so to exceed that is just fabulous.”
The Canadian Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” is an overnight, non-competitive relay that celebrates cancer survivors and pays tribute to loved ones.
Referred to as “a night of fun, friendship, and fundraising to beat cancer,” the “Relay” involves teams of about 10 people who take turns walking, running, or strolling around a track.
Teams consist of people representing corporations, communities, families, and friends.
The “Relay for Life” is a signature event of the Canadian Cancer Society, taking place all across Canada during the month of June.
“It was awesome,” echoed John Homer, committee member and emcee for the event.
Though the number of participating teams was down slightly from 21 to 16, he indicated the number of participants was still high since there were many teams with well over 10 members.
But, he added there were many new teams this year.
“We only had four or five returning teams,” he indicated, citing usually the majority of their teams have participated before. “We were a little concerned, but then all these young people stepped up and they were just unbelievable.
“Most of our teams were young people and they brought a new energy to the ‘Relay,’” he stressed, adding there was also plenty of enthusiasm for all the activities planned, with teams participating in a frozen T-shirt game and an evolution of dance contest.
Homer noted the younger crowd danced for two hours in the middle of the night when there is normally a lull.
“It was quite exciting to see this energy,” he enthused.
Homer called this year one of the most “eventful” relays, given the success of “Relay Idol”—a new addition to the event.
Eleven contestants competed, singing a variety of different songs in front of the crowd and three judges—Paul Morrison, Christa Pare, and Lucas Punkari.
“It was just fabulous. There was lots of good music and people really enjoyed the entertainment,” Anderson expressed.
Dylan Ossachuk took home the fan favourite award with his rendition of “Always” by Bon Jovi, while the judges choice award went to Alex McDonald, Zach Jolicoeur, and Alex Hedman for their performance of “Way Out Here” by Josh Thompson.
“What the best part was, at the end after we had given out the awards, [the contestants] did an encore together,” Homer noted. “They picked ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey, which if you listen to the words is perfect for the relay.”
He said the crowd joined in singing the chorus.
“It just went with the whole relay,” he expressed, citing he thinks “Don’t Stop Believing” will be the theme song for next year’s event.
Homer added “Relay Idol” also brought plenty of spectators out to the event, which was the intent of the singing competition.
“Our spectator count was way up and that’s been our goal because it’s not just about raising money, it’s about raising awareness, too,” he explained. “I think we hit the nail on the head both ways this year.”
“It was really nice to see the public come out and partake in some of the events,” echoed Anderson. “And the weather was beautiful, so that was a bonus.”
Another one of the events people enjoyed was the head shaving, which took place periodically throughout the “Relay Idol” competition.
Homer noted four people had planned to have their hair shaved as a way to raise money, but by the end of the evening several more had taken up a collection and joined in.
Duane Cridland, co-chair of the “Relay,” raised $9,400 to have his hair shaved—an amount he garnered in just one day.
This total earned him the honour of the highest individual fundraiser.
Other awards presented went to Chelsea Skirten’s “Mission Possible” team for the best decorated site and “Team McNay” for the highest team fundraiser as they brought in $7,700 in honour of Rob McNay, who lost his battle with cancer on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Homer noted the Survivor’s Dinner was again a success, as was the sale of the luminaries that were lighted around the track at nightfall.
Anderson added that ideas are already being tossed around for next year, although the committee won’t meet formally until the new year.
She said “Relay Idol” will likely return and the venue will remain at Fort Frances High School.
“We think it’s a great location and set-up and the school board has been so accommodating,” she indicated, citing also that at the Fort High track there is always the option of moving the event into the school if the weather doesn’t cooperate as it did this year.
“We’ll have more activities and just get bigger and better every year,” she stressed.
“It’s just great to have so much support from the community and all the participants,” she added. “To think we raised over $100,000 in the Rainy River District in one night is just amazing.”
Rainy River held their “Relay for Life” the same night, bringing in $37,000.
Funds raised from the local “Relays” will be used within the Thunder Bay-Rainy River districts.
Anyone interested in joining the committee to plan next year’s event can contact Anderson at 274-4972.