Relayers are often posed with the question, "why do you Relay"? Sometimes, they answer "for a good time", sometimes for service hours, or they may not even know how they got drugged into it. However, more often than not, as well as in my case, we Relay, for a personal reason, for a survivor.
My school, The University of South Florida's Survivor/Caregiver Committee is launching a campus-wide "Why Do You Relay?" campaign! There will be giant display boards, flyers, chalked sidewalks, and gatherings for the student body to tell us "why they Relay"!
I found it appropriate for the first people I pose this question to, to be the very people spearheading this campaign! The Community Manager for the area, Stephanie Lanni was quick to respond that she Relays for both her father and her uncle! The People Lead of the event, Lauren George took on her leadership role in honor of her mother, and because she believes everyone deserves to live a full life of happiness and healthiness! Survivor/Caregiver committee members Silvanna Astrada and Timothy Freeman both answered, that they Relayed for their mothers, and the co-lead for the Committee, Luana Pinto shared that she Relays, not just for her uncle, but for her boyfriend as well.
Their answers tell us two things:
That Cancer hits home for just about everyone
That we MUST keep fighting the good fight, so that less parents, uncles, and boyfriends have to go through the daily struggle that the aforementioned unsung heroes do. These ELT members are passionate!
As far as the answer of a survivor goes, I decided to contact my go-to for all things survivor, one that is currently the Event-Lead of her community event, and one that I know pretty well… as she did give birth to me: my mother, Janeen Stokes. Janeen is approaching her ninth year of survivorship and is living life to her fullest, though the aftermath of Breast Cancer can still be felt on a daily basis. She became involved in a Relay after her father’s diagnoses many of years ago (too long for her to remember exactly), but due to her own diagnosis, had to take a multi-year sabbatical away from her ELT. However, Janeen would NEVER miss any survivor ceremony/dinner that she was invited to. She understood the importance of being around fellow survivors, and how just being there to support and uplift each other, if for nothing more than one day a year, could be the difference and impact needed to keep one of them… scratch that, all of them to rejoice and keep fighting! And that, is the reason for Janeen to Relay. Janeen, and all survivors like her are courageous.
My mother, like most survivors, wear their own purple ribbon badge with honor. Walking hand-in-hand with their caregivers around the track.
However, for those that cannot walk the track physically, there is a great option for them to be involved in your event, regardless! They are able to sign up to be a "Virtual Survivor" and a loved one can walk the track during the survivor lap in their honor, with a picture of the survivor, or their name in hand.
This is a great possibility for your Survivor/Caregiver committee's to look into for the future. This will allow more survivors, as well as their caregivers to receive all of the information about great programs that the American Cancer Society has to offer for them (ex: "Look Good, Feel Better" or the "Hope Lodges" around the country). I strongly encourage anyone currently reading this to take the next step towards achieving your survivor goals and look into implementing a "Virtual Survivor" program and initiative for your events! Virtual Survivors are the determined.
A Survivor/Caregiver Committee is one of the most crucial aspects of an Event Leadership Team. Without them, there would be no survivor dinner, recognition, or lap. Without this important group of passionate volunteers, there would be no Relay For Life. So, keep on keepin' on Survivor/Caregiver Committee members, you all are the heartbeat of your event. You give it emotion, excitement, and most importantly: purpose.
Collectively, we are hope.