Area Relay for Life teams are making changes

Posted: April 27, 2013

The Winchester Star

Winchester — With about a month to go before the area erupts in purple for the Relay for Life, local organizers are gearing up for another busy season.

Hundreds of participants attend every year to walk throughout the night at two local events that raise funds for the American Cancer Society in the fight against cancer.

The Clarke County Relay for Life will begin at 4 p.m. June 1 and continue through 8 a.m. June 2 on the track at Johnson-Williams Middle School.

The Winchester-Frederick County Relay for Life will be held from 6:30 p.m. June 14 to 7 a.m. June 15 on the track at James Wood High School.

Since 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society, it will be a big year for Relay for Life, said Loretta Stem, chairman of the Clarke County event, whose theme this year is “Celebration of a Lifetime.”

An organization-wide change will begin this season and affect some Relay participants more than others, she said. Participants must raise $100 for the ACS to receive the official Relay for Life commemorative T-shirt. In a team situation, the team would need to raise the equivalent of $100 for each member to receive a shirt.

For most people who register ahead of time, the change will not be a big issue, Stem said. On-site registrants might not find the new policy as friendly, especially if the shirts are in short supply.

“I think people have to understand this is a fundraising event,” said Stem, a Berryville resident. “The purpose is for everyone to raise money to fund finding a cure for cancer.”

Many states and surrounding events had a similar policy, while at other locations an entrant received a T-shirt for registering, regardless of what he or she raised, said Julie Overbaugh, senior community manager for the local ACS office. The change establishes equal standards for everyone attending any Relay event, whether it is in Virginia or California.

“We have been doing it, but a lot of our events have not been doing it. We just decided we would get on board with all of our events so it was consistent,” she said.

On the local level, the Winchester-Frederick County event also has several changes planned for its June event to make it more fun, user-friendly and, organizers hope, a more profitable fundraiser, Overbaugh said.

One major change will be an increase in food vendors this year to offer participants a wider selection, she said. For professional food vendors, Top Flight BBQ will sell selections such as barbecue sandwiches, chicken kebabs, nachos and salads, and Chick-fil-A will have its signature sandwiches.

The Shawnee Ruritan Club will return to sell hamburgers and hot dogs, a local Boy Scout troop will also sell concession stand food, and at least one of the teams will sell pizza.

“We are adding a lot more food so our Relayers, as well as the community, can come in and get food for a donation, knowing that it is all coming back to Relay,” she said.

The local event is expanding its luminary program, Overbaugh said. Relay usually sells white bags filled with sand and a candle and marked with a name in honor and in memory of those who have had cancer.

This year, instead of sand, organizers want to hold the bags down with canned food or pet food that will be donated to the Congregational-Community Action Project and the Esther Boyd Animal Shelter after the event, she said. “We are super-excited because that is partnering with our community partners and trying to help out in all areas, whether it is cancer or hunger.”

In addition to the bag, people can purchase a luminary Torch of Hope in honor or memory of someone for $50, she said. The torch will have a ribbon representing the type of cancer that person had and a small engraved nameplate. Donors can take the torch home at the end of the event.

To keep people busy through the night, organizers are expanding the entertainment options, Overbaugh said.

A children’s area with games will include a Princess and Pirate Party, where children can make a donation and play at the party. It will include characters in costume, a show and themed crafts and activities to keep children occupied.

Organizers are also planning activities every hour to keep people awake and energized, she said.

Last year, the Winchester-Frederick County Relay for Life had more than 1,100 participants and survivors who raised about $270,000, Overbaugh said. This year’s goal is $300,000.

The 2012 Clarke County Relay for Life event had almost 250 participants and survivors who raised more than $63,000, Stem said. This year’s goal is $65,000.

A significant percentage of last year’s funds — $5,000 — came from Clarke County’s annual countywide spaghetti dinner and auction.

Information

The Winchester-Frederick County Relay for Life will be held from 6:30 p.m. June 14 to 7 a.m. June 15 on the track at James Wood High School. For more information, contact the local ACS office at 540-667-2315 or visit winchesterrelay.org.

Clarke County Relay for Life will begin at 4 p.m. June 1 and end at 8 a.m. June 2 on the track of Johnson-Williams Middle School. For more information, visit rflclarke.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com