Relay short of target but still time to donate
Participants in the 2018 Relay for Life in Belleville walk past luminary candles dedicated to people fighting cancer or who have died from it.
More people took part in this year's Relay for Life in Belleville, though the funds raised fell short of the target.
The relay was held Saturday evening at Mary-Anne Sills Park, raising $52,415 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Society fundraising specialist Jessica Klein said the goal had been to raise $85,000.
Though acknowledging the shortfall, she added, "We were delighted with the turnout.”
Teams increased this year to 29. About 35 to 40 cancer survivors were among the roughly 200 participants.
About 150 people attended last year's event. It raised about $70,000 – but that included a post-relay donation from local businessman Maurice Rollins.
Proceeds will fund society programs, including support for cancer patients and their families, the Wheels of Hope transportation service to get patients to and from appointments, and research.
The volunteer president of the society's local branch, Karen White, said the society's current advocacy focuses upon getting full funding for all eligible drugs taken at home by cancer patients. Other provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan provide such funding but Ontario doesn't, she said.
“We're getting close.”
White added a bill requiring plain packaging on tobacco products received recent royal assent.
“All levels of government have supported us,” she said. “Nothing that can cause cancer should look pretty.”
“We do listen,” Bay of Quinte Liberal MP Neil Ellis later told the crowd.
White, who lost both her brother and husband to cancer, praised the night's yellow-shirted survivors.
“You symbolize the progress made against cancer,” she said, adding survival rates are improving. She also thanked caregivers “who are the strength behind the strong.”
Survivor Camille Gray of Belleville led a pre-walk warmup session and later spoke about what followed her 2012 diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma. She's been in remission for five years.
“There is no right or wrong way to handle this journey,” Gray said, explaining cancer affects everyone differently.
She recalled having no answers for her ill health despite numerous tests. After an X-ray revealed a tumour, she dropped out of university moved six hours away for treatment: a dozen rounds of chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments.
“It also took a massive toll on my mental health and well-being.”
Gray said another medical condition resulted from her treatment, but cancer also gave her something.
“That gift was learning to appreciate every single day and every single person in my life.”
She also switched her academic focus and hopes to work as an oncology social worker.
Survivors soon made the inaugural lap of the track. It was the relay's first year in the park and shorter than the traditional 12 hours.
“A lot of the events that have been doing well across Ontario have been six hours,” said Klein, noting it's better for families and will hopefully increase future attendance. Turnouts across the province have been falling, Klein said, but are roughly steady locally.
With its focus on cancer, a relay “can really be very heart-wrenching for people” but activities – from live music to games – are planned throughout each to add a “festival feel” and keep the mood lighter, when possible.
“We want people to be having fun while they're supporting our mission.
Klein said an additional fundraiser may be planned for this fall. Organizers are “hoping to balance out” the grand total from the relays in Belleville, Bancroft, Trenton, Picton and Kingston. The latter will be held June 22.
Donation pages will remain online into July and it's believed some funds will still be donated, she said.