Take the baton Sept. 11: Relay for Life seeks participants, volunteers
The Relay for Life is not a one-day deal.
Although the 24-hour event which takes place each June at Whitehall High School is familiar to most people, the event does not represent the complete package, said Shari Noctor, chairperson of the 2012-13 Relay for Life of Whitehall. This year, the Whitehall relay celebrates its 10th anniversary and the American Cancer Society is celebrating its 100th.
Relay activities take place all year and, to make this year's event successful, organizers are seeking participants who live within the school districts of Whitehall-Coplay, Northampton and Catasauqua to get involved.
"We really need people to help us," said Noctor.
People can get involved with the relay in one of two ways – either as part of a team or as a volunteer behind the scenes.
Volunteers meet once a month to plan the annual 24-hour relay. They also assist teams in coming up with fundraising ideas and help carry them out.
Anyone interested in volunteering for behind-the-scenes work is invited to attend a meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the auditorium of Fellowship Community, 3000 Fellowship Drive, Whitehall.
Volunteers who gather Sept. 11 can help plan a kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at Fellowship. It will include music and refreshments as well as motivation.
"It's like a pep rally to motivate and get people started," said Lauren Seneca, an American Cancer Society representative who serves as the staff partner for the Whitehall relay.
Despite the emphasis on the actual relay, teams fundraise all year by holding bake sales, bingos, dinners and even dress down days at area businesses. Businesses themselves even form teams, said Noctor.
The teams are free to schedule their events whenever and wherever they like.
"We deposit money every month as they're raising it," said Noctor.
The American Cancer Society asks teams, which typically range in size from 10 to 15 people, to commit to raising $100 per person.
Some teams raise in excess of $10,000, said Noctor Donations of any amount are welcomed, however.
"If somebody can only raise $20, we'll take their $20," said Noctor.
This year, a website will be set up listing the teams and their fundraising goals. How much they've raised will also be posted and updated monthly.
The June event lasts 24 hours to symbolize the fact that cancer doesn't sleep, said Seneca.
The event, which is free and open to the public, includes an opening ceremony, a survivors lap, a caregivers lap and a luminaria ceremony, usually set for around 9 p.m.
The cancer society sells luminaria all year for an annual ceremony.
Although it's not mandatory, many buyers decorate the luminaria bags and some of the decorations are quite fancy, said Noctor. Buyers then return the luminaria bags to the cancer society for the ceremony.
The relay organizers don't want misconceptions to keep people from getting involved.
"Some people don't have a team because they think they have to be there all 24 hours," said Noctor.
Although the goal is to have someone walking on the track all 24 hours, each team need not be represented the whole time, said Noctor.
She and Seneca want to make sure people realize they don't need to make a 24-hour commitment for the June event.
"People want to go home, take a shower and come back. They can do that," said Seneca.
The funds raised by the relay provide 40 percent of the American Cancer Society's income.
"[Many people] think the cancer society only raises money for research," said Noctor. "That's so far from the truth."
Among the programs funded are "Road to Recovery," in which volunteers drive cancer patients to treatments and doctor's appointments, and "Look Good, Feel Better," which helps cancer patients deal with changes in skin and hair.
The cancer society offers a free 24-hour hot line and representatives send cards and emails to offer support to patients and their families. Financial support is also available.
Those who raise $1,000 or more can become a member of the ACS CAN (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network) which supports lobbying efforts and provides updates on legal issues and research, said Noctor.
Anyone interested in attending either the Sept. 11 planning meeting or the Oct. 2 kickoff can contact Noctor for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-261-5241.