A national presence for more than a quarter-century, the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life fundraiser debuted in Pleasanton in July 2007. Over the past six years it has been drawing crowds to the track at Pleasanton Middle School for a 24-hour community-wide event that honors cancer survivors and pays tribute to the lives lost.
Participants form teams of 10 to 15 members, typically comprised of friends, family, or co-workers, who take turns walking or running around the track for 24 hours - "because cancer never sleeps!"remarks Julie Oshiro, Senior Manager, Relay For Life, California Division, American Cancer Society (ACS). "We Relay because we have been touched by cancer and desperately want to put an end to the disease."
A forum for acknowledging the personal dimension of the disease, Relay brings community members together-more than 3.5 million people nationwide-to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer and draw strength from its survivors. The event offers participants from all walks of life the opportunity to grieve and find healing in the company of others who share similar experiences.
Special features like the inaugural lap of cancer survivors, the "fight back" lap dedicated to participants' personal wellness goals, and the caregivers' lap acknowledging patient helpers keep the teams and their supporters busy and engaged. Live music, martial arts and dance demonstrations, and activities for children are highlights that keep spirits high throughout the event.
By all standards, the Pleasanton Relay has been a big success, raising a cumulative total of more than $1.5 million for ACS research, education, advocacy, and service programs. While the agency is well-known for its work on the scientific front, the many services it delivers to patients are equally noteworthy - for example, counseling to patients and their families, transportation to treatment, and free wigs to patients who lose their hair while going through chemotherapy.
A toll-free number (800-227-2345) makes trained specialists available around the clock to answer questions about the disease and treatment, empowering callers to make educated health decisions. "ACS is there for cancer patients and their families so they know they don't have to go through this alone. Donations from Relay help make that possible," Oshiro comments.
Participation in the local Relay has traditionally been high, both in the number of teams and on-site volunteers, but Oshiro notes that this year the effort is short on Planning Committee members. The organizing team is responsible for the many different components of the event, from Accounting to Luminaria. A major effort goes into survivor recruitment and development. "We need help reaching out to find and invite survivors, so when they walk that first lap they can be cheered and supported by their family and friends," Oshiro says.
Relay organizers collaborate with many other community nonprofits that support the event. "It's a great way to gain exposure to so many organizations and social clubs in the community. It also helps us get the word out. Who wouldn't want to be involved in taking up the fight for cancer, which affects everyone?" she asks rhetorically.
The 2013 Relay will take place July 27-28. The next Planning Committee meetings are scheduled for February 19 and March 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Pleasanton Marriott. Volunteer positions are also available for the day of the event. To find out more, contact Oshiro at (925) 934-7640 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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