By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
The kickoff for the 2015 Shinnston-Lumberport Relay for Life event was held last week at First United Methodist Church in Shinnston, and organizers say they were more than pleased with the larger than usual turnout. In addition to Relay ‘faithfuls’, there were some new faces – some leaving with team packets!
“Lights – Camera – Relay” is this year’s local theme, and just like in the movies, it promises to be quite a production! This is due in part to a very generous cooperative relationship established with the City of Shinnston.
Event lead Becky Kozul noted that the City has always been helpful in many areas during Relay, but this year their association with Relay has gone far beyond just being “helpful”. The City will actually host some events of its own to enhance the Relay activity.
Area participants and attendees will notice several changes this year. A primary change will be that the 2015 Shinnston-Lumberport Relay for Life event will be held at Ferguson Memorial Park for the first time!
“Those who have been involved with Relay in recent years know that the weather has not been friendly to us on Relay evening,” Kozul stated. “Although we still can’t guarantee better weather, we hope that a new location and new activities will encourage people to continue to support this event. Utilizing the park, we will also have access to sheltered pavilions should weather become a factor.”
In addition, the park also offers its Performance Center as a permanent stage where entertainment can benefit from not just shelter but also sound system availability.
“Keeping with our Hollywood movie theme, the City of Shinnston will host one of its ‘Family Night in the Park’ events to coincide with our Relay evening,” Mrs. Kozul added. “This means that a movie as well as the opportunity for a swim at the pool will be available to those attending Relay. These extras will be in addition to our teams’ traditional tent activities.”
Some teams have already registered for this year’s Relay and have begun to plan their fundraising activities for the June 26th event.
Shinnston Community Development Director Reuben Perdue noted that the pool’s lifeguards have formed a Relay team. “This is one way our City will help support their team,” he said. “After the lifeguards are paid for their duties, all other pool proceeds that evening will be donated to Relay.”
Perdue further explained the City’s involvement, saying, “We have some resources that we think will be of great value to Relay, and by combining our efforts, we hope this will relieve them of some of their previous financial burdens. They won’t have to rent a stage; we will provide the movie, the opportunity for our first ever night swim, sound system and sound technician … so all of these things will help them with pay-out expenses as well. After all, this is supposed to be a fund-RAISER!”
He also noted that the City’s partnership is a good opportunity for both parties. “Perhaps some folks will come as Relay participants who have never enjoyed our Family Nights in the Park before, and maybe they’ll return for others in the future. Likewise, those who do regularly attend our Family Nights perhaps have never experienced the Relay event and will see what an enjoyable time it is. It will hopefully be a win-win situation for both of us.”
Mrs. Kozul has been an employee of UHC’s Cancer Center, working in the Radiation Oncology Department for more than 30 years. She says that through her continued involvement with Relay, she sees former patients of hers outside the workplace – as “survivors” – and that is very rewarding for her. She has participated in Relay for many years in different capacities. However, this is her first year to chair the event.
“My reasons are also very personal,” she continued. “I lost my brother to melanoma, and my husband has survived Hodgkins Disease. While he underwent a bone marrow transplant, I saw the other side of my profession and personally experienced how patients’ and their families’ world can be turned upside down by cancer and its treatments. I also experienced first hand how many ways the American Cancer Society can help – not just through its research, but with support, education, and numerous other services. So it is no wonder that I, like many others, have chosen to become involved with Relay.”
Relay for Life is now in its 30th year! The idea was conceived by just one man who walked for 24 hours, raising $27,000 in the state of Washington in 1985. Now, the Relay movement is not just a nationwide event but a global one, which has grown by leaps and bounds and has raised $5 billion to help fight cancer. The benefits of the funding raised in support of the American Cancer Society have made a difference to 14 million cancer survivors who will celebrate another birthday! That, in itself, is reason enough to support these events.
Mrs. Kozul would like to thank the other committee chairs who have volunteered their time and talents to help lead this year’s local event – Braden Noon, Patty Post, Bobby Bice, Rebecca Pilger, Holly Hawkins and Betty Waddy … AND, to all those who lend their energy as team captains and team members.
“We hope the community will support this year’s event because who among us doesn’t have a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor whose lives haven’t been touched by this disease?” Kozul concluded. “We have a unique evening planned, and we want this special evening to be a real celebration of the great strides made to help more and more people have another birthday.”
Mark your calendars for Friday, June 26th! The Survivors’ Lap will open the event at 6 p.m. … and the rest of the evening will be “Lights – Camera – Relay”!
Watch for more information on the local 2015 Relay in future editions of The News & Journal.