By Jonathon Chun
Clinton County Chatter
On May 15, Clinton County will walk, run and have fun as they celebrate those who have fought cancer, remember those lost their lives it, and take action against the deadly disease. The Relay For Life of Clinton County will be held at the Clinton County Fairgrounds in St. Johns.
Since 1985, Relay For Life has raised over $3 billion for cancer studies, and more than 5,000 communities host the event every year, according to the American Cancer Society.
This will mark the 20th year that Clinton County has hosted the event.
“Over the course of their 20 years, they’ve raised over $2 million for the American Cancer Society,” Relay For Life specialist Janet Leslie said.
Leslie, a graduate of Michigan State University, is entering her second year as the lead of the Clinton County event. In her first year, the community raised an impressive amount of money.
“You can round it up and say they did $151,000,” Leslie said. “They were what we consider a Pacesetter event, which means that they made their fundraising goal by the end of the actual event.
“Our teams continue to fundraise really all year long, so sometimes they don’t make their goal at the actual relay itself, but they did a superior job and were a Pacesetter event.”
Becoming a Pacesetter event or team isn’t just a participation award, especially for a small community like Clinton County. Lorena, an income support specialist at the American Cancer Society, said it is much easier when it is a big event.
“If it’s a smaller event, usually it’s one or two teams that you can see that have [become a pace setter],” Lorena said. “It looks like about five of these teams have raised a lot of money and it looks like they’ve already received some awards.”
The event currently has 22 teams listed with 85 participants, which Lorena called a significant amount for a small town. However, only 14 teams have actually contributed to the $43,010.19 raised so far.
That number might only account for a portion of the fundraising, according to Lorena.
“People can actually fundraise cash as well,” Lorena said. “People are just going to be signing up at the event and fundraising, so that number could get higher.”
The Westside Walkers, sponsored by MAHLE, has been the highest fundraising team so far. The group consisting of six members has raised over $29,000 so far and is just short of its $30,000 goal.
“We’ve had a lot of people in our factory who have been touched by cancer, so this is real personal to all of us,” Westside Walkers team leader Chris Cobb said. “It gets more and more rewarding every year.”
According to Cobb, the Westside Walkers have raised more than $220,000 since 2005.
“You see people that you have met previously that were fighting cancer and then the next year, some of them are cancer free,” Cobb said. “It’s very emotional, both happily and sadly, but it’s something we look forward to every year.”
The 24-hour event takes place in three stages: Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back. In the Celebrate portion, survivors of cancer and caregivers walk to celebrate their victories over the diseases.
The Remember observance consists of a Luminaria Ceremony to help honor those who lost their lives to cancer. Lastly, the Fight Back ceremony concludes the event as the volunteers and runners take one final lap to help take action.
“The Relay itself is meant to celebrate our cancer survivors, remember those we’ve lost to cancer, and for all those gathered to vow and pledge to fight back against cancer,” Leslie said.
In just her second year running the event, Leslie is already enamored with Clinton County’s passion for it.
“What I particularly like about Clinton County is the small town atmosphere,” Leslie said. “They are very hardworking people who work together great. They are very committed to the mission and their fundraisers for such a small community are very incredibly productive.”