At its height of popularity Nanaimo’s Relay for Life drew hundreds of participants, but dwindling interest in the event has resulted in the Canadian Cancer Society’s decision to declare 2017 as the final year for the fundraiser. (News Bulletin file)

2017 Relay for Life to be Nanaimo’s last

Island Relay for Life events dying out due to dwindling participation.

A cancer-fighting fundraiser that once drew hundreds of participants for a 24-hour relay will pass the baton in search of a new event.

Nanaimo’s Relay for Life, which has been held in Nanaimo since 2001, happens for the last time at Nanaimo Rotary Bowl June 3.

Tanya Davis, Canadian Cancer Society mid-Island annual giving coordinator, said 2017 is the last year for the event because of waning support.

The Relay for Life began as a 24-hour relay event that drew teams decked out in theme costumes who walked the rotary bowl track throughout the day and night to raise cash to fight cancer.

“It used to be a 24-hour event and then, as the registration dropped off, they pulled it back to 12 hours and now it’s only six hours, because the hope was if it was shorter we’d get more people coming to the event,” Davis said. “Unfortunately that didn’t work, so we’ve had to decide to cancel the event after this year.”

Davis said there around now numerous walks, runs and other charitable events happening on the Island.

“The relay may just get lost in the shuffle now because people have just sort of been there and done that, so we’re hoping if we come with a new event that’s not a walk or a run, that will get Nanaimo excited about supporting us again,” she said.

The 2017 Relay for Life will run 5-11 p.m.

Steady decline in participation has already shut down south- and mid-Island Relay for Life events in Victoria, Duncan and Port Alberni, Davis said. Comox still runs an annual 12-hour overnight relay and will be the last event of its kind on the Island. Prince George hosts the biggest Relay for Life event in B.C., which raised $500,000 last weekend.

“It was the 25th anniversary for them,” said Davis, who is hoping for strong participation from the community and cancer survivors for Nanaimo’s final Relay for Life.

At its peak, Nanaimo’s Relay for Life drew about 600 participants. This year about 100 people are registered, plus about 60 cancer survivors, so far.

Registrations for the 2017 Relay for Life are still being accepted.

To learn more or register, please visit

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