Relay for Life raises money, awareness

NANAIMO – Tears and laughter intermingled at the Canadian Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life.

Cancer survivors kick off the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life event with a victory lap around the track at Rotary Bowl. The event drew 40 teams which walked the track from dusk till dawn on Friday to Saturday morning.

Cancer survivors kick off the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life event with a victory lap around the track at Rotary Bowl. The event drew 40 teams which walked the track from dusk till dawn on Friday to Saturday morning.

Tears and laughter intermingled at the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life honouring those who lost their battle with cancer and celebrating alongside others who won the fight.

Forty teams and nearly 300 people, including volunteers, gathered at the Rotary Bowl off Wakesiah Avenue from 7 p.m. on Friday to 7 a.m. on Saturday to do laps around the track.

Linda Tesser, community giving coordinator for the south Island with the Canadian Cancer Society, said 77 survivors participated, making the survivors’ victory lap at the beginning a sight to remember.

“It was a sea of yellow T-shirts,” she said.

Tesser said the event has raised $73,000 and counting – as of Monday at press time, the numbers were not finalized – and many participants told her they had a fun time.

“Everybody’s there for a common purpose,” she said. “It’s always extremely inspirational.”

Many teams dressed up for the event in everything from tie-dye to colourful, ‘80s-style spandex to capes, said Tesser.

Teams also stepped up – literally – to a pedometer challenge, with the Thrifty Foods team taking the lead by walking 19,110 steps around the track in an hour and a half.

During the luminary ceremony – the only sombre part of the evening – decorated bags containing tea lights were placed along the sides of the track in remembrance of loved ones lost to cancer.

Dale Mlazgar, a member of the relay organizing committee and team captain, who has lost several loved ones to cancer, said it was the only sad part of the event.

“Everyone hugs because everyone’s lost somebody,” she said.

On Mlazgar’s team, one member who joined just days before the event managed to raise more than $3,000 and shaved her head that night in celebration of her achievement.

“I have 20 people who want to join next year,” she said. “Everyone agreed that it was just an awesome event. Lots of tears, lots of laughter, lots of walking. We all had fun.”

The event ended with people writing pledges to do various things to stay healthy and cancer free, from quitting smoking to using more sun screen.

“A big part of this whole thing is about fighting back,” said Tesser.

The event raises money for cancer research, prevention initiatives and support for people living with cancer.

For more information, please go to www.cancer.ca.