News Local

Relay for Life launched

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

The 2016 Relay for Life was launched Wednesday evening. In front are seated Mike Sibley, event chairman, left, and Lomie Coleman, 2016 Honorary Survivor and event co-chairwoman. Standing behind them are people representing the event's major sponsors. Starting from left are Terri McNamera, who is representing Rexall Pharma Plus, the Survivor Sponsor; Brian Morris and Kelly Burgess, representing Scotiabank, the Entertainment Sponsor; Warrant Officer Rick McCormack, representing Garrison Petawawa, the Site Sponsor; Tammy Hehn, representing Access Healthcare Services Inc., the Logistics Sponsor; Marilyn Gorr, representing the Lapointe Auto Group, the Luminary Sponsor; Kyle Robinson, representing MyFM, the Media Sponsor; and Jennifer Dennison, representing Sunsign Graphics, the Signage Sponsor.

The 2016 Relay for Life was launched Wednesday evening. In front are seated Mike Sibley, event chairman, left, and Lomie Coleman, 2016 Honorary Survivor and event co-chairwoman. Standing behind them are people representing the event's major sponsors. Starting from left are Terri McNamera, who is representing Rexall Pharma Plus, the Survivor Sponsor; Brian Morris and Kelly Burgess, representing Scotiabank, the Entertainment Sponsor; Warrant Officer Rick McCormack, representing Garrison Petawawa, the Site Sponsor; Tammy Hehn, representing Access Healthcare Services Inc., the Logistics Sponsor; Marilyn Gorr, representing the Lapointe Auto Group, the Luminary Sponsor; Kyle Robinson, representing MyFM, the Media Sponsor; and Jennifer Dennison, representing Sunsign Graphics, the Signage Sponsor.

Are you ready for some relay?

On Wednesday, members of the Relay for Life organizing team hosted a Relay Reveal at Algonquin College Waterfront Campus, where the 17th annual Relay for Life was officially launched.

The signature overnight fundraiser for Renfrew County's Canadian Cancer Society, which is scheduled for June 3, 2016 in Petawawa, is the prime vehicle from which the group raises money for both local support programs and research.

Both new and returning relay participants were invited to attend and sign up for the event early, and for doing so get a free 2016 relay t-shirt and a sneak peak at what's in store for this year's event.

Jessica Khouri, Community Fundraising Specialist for the Canadian Cancer Society, Renfrew County Community Office, thanked everyone for attending, saying she cannot emphasize enough the importance of everyone's participation in the event. All of the money they raise impacts people right here in Renfrew County, whether it is from the results of research or programs like the Wheels of Hope, in which volunteers drive cancer patients to Ottawa and back for treatments.

“A total of 230 people used the Wheels of Hope program last year,” she said.

Mike Sibley, who is the Relay for Life event chairman, said he and Lomie Coleman, who is the 2016 Honorary Survivor and co-chairwoman of the event, owe their lives to research. Both cancer survivors, she said 25 years ago neither of them would be here if it wasn't for the advances in medical treatments. In both their cases, stem cell treatments did wonders.

“It is the research which ensures the number of survivors we have today,” Sibley said, noting 75 per cent of potential research projects are shelved simply because of a lack of money to find them.

“Who's to say one of those boxes on the shelf doesn't have the magic bullet?” he said.

Sibley said research has also added to the quality of life for cancer patients, as the treatments have fewer side effects than they once did.

Coleman, who was a family doctor in Pembroke for years, said she has attended the Relay for Life many times as a spectator and team member, and watched many of her patients take the Survivors Lap. In 2013, this became personal as she became a cancer patient herself, after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. But, after being treated with radiation, chemotherapy and stem cells, she is doing well.

“Thanks to research, this cancer is treatable,” Coleman said. “I'm able to feel optimistic about my long term survival. I'm looking forward to walking the Survivors Lap with hope and optimism, on behalf of all survivors.”

The Relay for Life is a 12-hour, overnight, non-competitive event involving teams of people taking turns running or walking around a track. Overnight participation is not mandatory, but some teams and team members stick around until it wraps up early the next morning.

The event, which started in Garrison Petawawa in 2000, has branched out to include highly successful relay events in Barry's Bay and Beachburg.

Among the event's traditions is the Survivors' Lap, which features all those who battled cancer and won taking the first lap around the track. Caregivers and family members start walking in the opposite direction, with both groups meeting in the middle to walk together.

Another tradition is the luminary ceremony, a deeply moving ritual which involves the lighting of candles placed inside special bags which line the track, each representing loved ones who have lost their fight with cancer or to honour survivors. The sales of these luminaries forms a portion of the money raised by the event, but it also symbolically drives home the message of what the event is all about.

To learn more about the Relay for Life, and to register, visit www.relayforlife.ca/petawawa, or contact the Renfrew County Community Office (613-735-2571 ext. 3665, or email jkhouri@ontario.cancer.ca) to obtain a registration kit.

SUhler@postmedia.ca