The first-annual “Relay for Life” here last Friday night was an overwhelming success, raising close to $75,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
The “relay” featured 350 participants and close to 100 volunteers who occupied the grounds of Pither’s Point for a night of fun and focus to help stop the disease.
The more than 30 teams on hand were required to be on the track at all times throughout the night.
The “Survivor Lap,” which kicked off the 12-hour relay and featured more than 60 cancer survivors, was one of the more emotional moments of the night.
“It was absolutely amazing,” said chairman Russ Ling, who added some funds were still being tallied Monday morning. “I could never have guessed it would be like that.”
“I’m astounded by the results,” added Linda Hamilton, president of the Fort Frances Unit of the Canadian Cancer Society. “I’m amazed how the young people pulled it all together. A real sense of community.”
Joining Hamilton for the opening ceremonies were NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, volunteer co-ordinator Sue Danku, and Legion Ladies Auxiliary rep Betty Crawford.
“To all the survivors, I want to thank you for exhibiting your courage tonight,” Hampton said on the stage Friday night. “We support all the people fighting hard in a battle I believe we’re winning.”
At 10 p.m., some 1,000 luminaries were lit around the track to commemorate the memory of other cancer victims and survivors.
The Fort Frances Dental Clinic, nicknamed the “Drill Squad,” led all teams by raising $3,200. Mark Jones led single fundraisers with $1,187.
Overall, this was the first year for the “Relay for Life” in Northwestern Ontario. It has been held in cities around southern Ontario for the past two years.
First-time relays in Thunder Bay raised $69,000 while Kenora’s event garnered $54,000. When Danku, the CFOB morning host, was brought in, her target was to raise $15,000.
The fundraising drive really picked up momentum in the last three months as bake sales, garage sales, and cuts for cancer found their way across the town, she added.
Cancer is one of the most predominate diseases in Canada. In some form or fashion, it can inflict one in three Canadians, according to Ken Ranta, regional director of the Northwestern Ontario wing of the Canadian Cancer Society.
And while he added the number of deaths is decreasing, there will be an estimated 19,000 newly-diagnosed patients this year.
“Credit goes to the organizing committee to the town,” he noted. “It goes to show that people saw a challenge and they responded.”
This relay was the last one scheduled in Ontario and its total pushed the provincial number to $1 million. Hamilton said this is a carry-over from the American Cancer Society, which has been holding similar relays for 12 years.