Chester County Relay for Life co-chairs Jerry Henry and Teri Evans say the Relay for Life team-building is ahead of where it was last year at this time, and looks to be on the fast track to success.
“Information that I received recently from our American Cancer Society sponsor shows we are ahead of the track (of signing up teams) from where we were last year. Right now, we have 22 teams who have signed up to raise money, and that’s more than where we were at this time last year,” said SFC Jerry Henry.
The goal is to sign up at least 40 teams, and raise $80,000 for the American Cancer Society. Relay for Life wants 335 participants and 100 survivors to take part in the relay events.
“If we keep doing like we are doing, I think we can achieve those goals,” said Henry. “We have some teams who are returning, and even some teams who did not participate last year are signing up to come back this year,” he said.
Relay for Life this year will be on Friday, May 15 from 6 p.m. until midnight at the Lewisville High School stadium. The theme this year is One Team, One Community, One Cause.
Henry and Evans and their fellow event chairs are trying to recruit more churches in the area to form Relay for Life teams, and the Relay for Life volunteers have been going around to community churches and organizations talking about Relay for Life.
“A lot of people are still not aware of what Relay for Life is and what we do,” said Henry.
“Many people are not aware of the American Cancer Society or what the purpose of Relay for Life is, and when they find out about it, they want to form a team. I think we’ll reach our 40-team goal this year. We’ve had great sponsorship from the Chester Country School District and all of the schools,” he said.
The entire effort is ahead on the number of fundraising teams, number of survivors and number of participants in Relay for Life, said Evans.
Henry said he thinks more people have embraced the idea of Relay for Life because “the word’s getting out more. We’ve been talking to more people and getting them to understand the purpose behind Relay, and why we’re doing this.”
Henry and Evans also credit the consistent support from American Cancer Society staff partner Lindsey Coyle as one of the reasons why the Relay for Life effort in Chester County is ahead of schedule.
“Lindsey is on top of her game,” said Evans.
The first visible event for Relay for Life will be the Survivor Dinner. The dinner will be held on Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at the War Memorial Building in Chester.
“What we want is to get people aware of this event, so they can fill out the form and be enrolled, and be one of the survivors we honor that night,” said Henry.
“If you know anyone who needs to be registered for the Survivor Dinner, we would love to have them get registered,” Henry said.
Cancer survivors can register for the Survivor Dinner online at www.relayforlife.org or they can show up the night of the Survivor Dinner and register, but they will not receive a t-shirt that night.
“Entertainment chair Ryan Deloach is working very hard to make the Survivor Dinner an unforgettable event,” said Henry.
“To me, the Survivor Dinner is very important. When the survivors come out that night, they see we are thinking about them and that’s the purpose of Relay. The purpose of the survivor dinner is to celebrate them, the survivors of cancer, and for the people who may have a relative who has cancer, that it can be survived,” said Henry.
“It’s a huge deal to have survived something like that,” Evans put in.
“We are going to have survivors there who have been survivors for 20 years, 25 years; at the dinner you’ll see people who have been survivors for one year, and some who have been survivors for 25 years. I always say that’s the time to tell your story. You have some people who come out to the Survivor Dinner, and they’re hesitant to talk about cancer, and then when they see a person who’s been a survivors for 25 years tell their story, that makes that other person feel a little bit better about themselves and what they’ve gone through,” Henry said.
The Survivor Dinner this year is what Evans and Henry are calling a “Red Carpet event.”
“We want everyone to be dressed up, and we’re going to make it worth their while to come out and see we really appreciate them and are thinking about them,” Henry said.
Of course, one of the big parts of the actual Relay for Life celebration is the Survivor’s Lap, which the survivors take first.
The big community involvement takes place on the night of Relay for Life, where the public comes out and supports the teams who are raising funds by selling Relay merchandise, or balloons, holding special fundraisers (like the Chester County Sheriff’s Office did last year with their Relay for Life “jail”) or as many teams do at Relay, selling different kinds of food. The night the public attends the Relay event is when it all comes together for him, says Jerry Henry.
“For me, at the Relay for Life event, I’ve watched people come out over the years and they think this is a closed event. We tell them it’s for the community. Come out and see for yourself – we’ve had teams who come out to Relay, see what it’s about, and sign up for the next year on the spot, saying ‘I want to be a part of this. I was at Relay last year, and I didn’t know all of this went on’.”
Both Henry and Evans are school district employees, so there is a strong push to get the schools involved in Relay for Life.
“If we can get every school in Chester to have a representative who speaks for Relay for Life, so the kids tell their parents about it, you’re going to have a nice event,” he said.
“Relay is a family event – in a safe environment, for a good cause,” said Evans.
There are many ways people in the community can participate in Relay for Life, Evans said. Join a team, contribute to a team, or get some friends together and form a fundraising team.
Monthly Relay for Life planning meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall in Chester; team captains meet at 6 p.m.
Find out more by visiting the Relay for Life website, follow the Chester County Relay for Life page on Facebook or contact Henry at “firstname.lastname@example.org or Teri Evans at email@example.com.