By Marlee Delaney
Holt Journal staff writer
Holt’s Relay for Life is looking for people to participate in this annual cancer fundraiser June 21-22 at Holt High School.
Relay for Life celebrates survivors, remembers those who have lost their battle and raises funds to stop a disease that continues to take far too many lives.
The relay is a team event that lasts 24 hours. Because cancer never sleeps, it is required for at least one team member to be walking on the track at all times.
American Cancer Society representative Sarah Evitts said Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser.
Evitts said the relay is about supporting anyone who has gone through cancer. She added that it’s about communities rallying around survivors and caregivers and honoring those we have lost. The relay gives individuals a chance to fight back against this disease.
“We are truly creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays,” she said.
Evitts encourages everyone to participate. She stressed that it’s free, family friendly and open to the public.
Fundraise and Donate to Relay for Life
Publicity Chairwoman Gail Hayhoe didn’t hear about Relay for Life until her husband told her he thought they should become involved in it. For the first few years, Gail Hayhoe was team captain and on a committee.
She gathers stories and pictures and submits them to the local paper. Some are personal stories about why people relay, and some are stories about their fight against cancer.
She also spreads the word that Relay for Life is coming and what it entails, and she includes information about cancer awareness, preventive methods and early protection.
“A lot of businesses will become sponsors,” she said. “There are different levels depending on how much they want to donate and if they want to get their name on a t-shirt or around the track.”
Some businesses that sponsor Holt’s Relay for Life are Edward Jones, Estes-Leadley Funeral Home, 7-Eleven and State Farm Insurance.
As of April 30, Holt has raised a total of $12,228.56. There are currently 12 teams and a total of 124 participants.
“It’s just a fun 24 hours where people get together and celebrate survivors and remember their loved ones,” she said.
Participant John Hayhoe said that a couple women appeared at a Kiwanis Club meeting about nine years ago and had the idea of starting a Relay for Life in Holt. The club agreed to help and named their team Holt Kiwanis/Hayhoe Asphalt.
“This is the ninth year of Holt’s Relay for life, and this is the ninth year for our team,” John Hayhoe said.
The Meaning of Relay for Life
Co-Chair Amanda Johnson has been involved with Relay for Life for almost 13 years. She worked at Celebration Cinema, which had a team at Mason’s Relay for Life until Holt’s was established.
Johnson has been on the committee for about five years and has previously run the events and done recruitment.
She described being a co-chair as a point person for a lot of the community members to come to. They check in with her, and she offers assistance to them for whatever they need.
Johnson became more involved with Relay for Life after her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. However, Johnson is walking for more than just one person this year.
“This year, I’m walking for my aunt as well as a friend who was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer,” she said.
Ben Darling started working with Relay for Life about 10-11 years ago when his wife was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
Darling did logistics for Relay for Life. He said his involvement started by setting up the event in Holt and working with the school to start it.
“It’s a way for those of us who haven’t had cancer to feel a little bit of the pain,” he said. “I look at it as a way for me to try to realize some of the difficulties that people with cancer have to go through. It’s not just about fundraising and awareness but also about translating a little bit of the pain, suffering, challenge and hard work that I haven’t had to go through because of cancer.”
The luminaria ceremony is a main focus for his team and added that they acknowledge each bag that is placed around the track. Many team members have personal relationships with people who have battled cancer.
“I think it’s to recognize those people and respect those people,” he said. “I see my grandparents and their names there, and it’s very emotional.”
Survivor Committee Chair Betty Nelson is responsible for starting the first Relay for Life in Holt, with her friend, Joan Johnson. They were co-chairs until Nelson focused solely on survivorship.
“I think it’s very important to raise funds and awareness for cancer,” she said.
As a survivor committee chair, Nelson plans activities and special events for survivors. Each year, the relay begins with an opening ceremony that consists of a survivor and a caregiver sharing their story and explaining what Relay for Life means to them.
“They really are the heart and soul of our relay,” she said.