Relay for Life celebrates, remembers and fights back

“It’s one day, one night; one community, one fight,” says Donna Hogan, co-chair of the Relay for Life steering committee.

“It’s the largest cancer fundraiser event in the world,” adds Scott Kent, regional manager of the Canadian Cancer Society. There are 52 relays in the Yukon and B.C. and over

300 across Canada.

Hogan has been volunteering since the first relay: “A number of years ago, we had three family members die of cancer within a week …

“One of those was my mother.”

“My Dad had kidney cancer 10 years ago,” says Kent, whose involvement began with two luminaries to honour family members.

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that, in 2008, 110 Yukoners will be diagnosed with cancer and 60 of them will die.

The good news is the survivor rate is increasing and has nearly doubled since the ’60s.

The 2008 Relay has three themes.

The theme of the opening Victory Lap is “Celebrate”.

The theme of the Luminary Ceremony, which begins at midnight, is “Remember”.

Kent sets two luminaries on his desk, each decorated with colourful stickers, each bearing a message honouring a loved one. For several moments, we are held in silent, sacred reverie, as if it is they who honour us with their presence.

“In memory of those who have lost the battle,” Hogan remembers one luminary.

“To Grandma. We love you and miss you,” Kent recalls the message of so many others.

“From dusk to dawn, people walk,” says Hogan.

Cancer doesn’t sleep, so why should we?”

The theme of the final lap is “Fight Back”.

“We ask participants to make a pledge,” Kent says, “that they will fight back throughout the year.”

Pledge cards are issued. Children sign Polaroid snapshots of themselves, pledging not to smoke.

“Over 50 [people] signed pledges last year,” Kent says. There were 560 participants on 54 teams.

And close to 1,000 luminaries, “more than enough to go around the track,” says Kent.

Kent has seen people sit beside luminaries. He has even seen families camp beside them.

The falling snow reminds Hogan of years when she thought the weather might keep people from coming. “But,” she says, “come seven o’clock, and it was time to show up, ‘they’ were there.

“Yukoners show up.”

Last year, they raised over $500,000.

Once again, the Cancer Smart Shop will provide information on awareness and prevention. There will be a concession and team prizes and local artists will perform from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

While Zola Doré’s coffee keeps participants percolating, the Persephone Singers will serenade them.

And the Grey Mountain Lions Club will flip (pancakes) for participants.

This really is a community event.

Relay for Life begins on June 7 at 7 p.m. at the Rotary Peace Park.

As participants walk, they will be celebrating, remembering and fighting back.

It’s “one day, one night; one community, one fight.”

Check out or drop into the Canadian Cancer Society office on Wood Street (in the Yukon News building).

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