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Revitalizing Relay for Life in Orillia

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

From left to right: Jen Van Iersel, Rebecca Jeremy, Jen Jeremy, Victoria Woodhouse, Joyce Mayne, Joanne Pittock and Patricia Cousineau. The six women in orange shirts are all members of the Orillia Relay for Life organizing committee for 2017, while Mayne is the group's staff partner from the Barrie office of the Canadian Cancer Society.

From left to right: Jen Van Iersel, Rebecca Jeremy, Jen Jeremy, Victoria Woodhouse, Joyce Mayne, Joanne Pittock and Patricia Cousineau. The six women in orange shirts are all members of the Orillia Relay for Life organizing committee for 2017, while Mayne is the group's staff partner from the Barrie office of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Organizers of the Orillia Relay for Life are hoping to revitalize the fundraiser in 2017.

The volunteers putting on the event for the Canadian Cancer Society this year took up shop at Rotary Place in Orillia Saturday to help spread the word about Relay and get people excited for the six hour walk, taking place June 16 at ODAS Park, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Part of that revitalization means getting more people involved and teams signed up for the fundraiser. The organizers also want to re-connect with the community. Attendance at the event has been down the past few years.

“It kind of ebbs and flows,” explained Jen Jeremy, volunteer chair of the Orillia Relay for Life committee. But she's confident the trend can be reversed.

“It's just about getting back out in the community and making people aware of what we're doing and why we're doing it,” she added. “I think that's most important, that they know relay is still around and that we're doing it for a good cause.”

The 2017 Relay will be the 16th for the fundraiser in Orillia. But knowledge about the Relay and what it does could be stronger, Jeremy said, which is one of the reasons organizers held the event Saturday. Some people, Jeremy finds, aren't even familiar with the luminary, perhaps one of the more lasting symbols of any Relay for Life.

A luminary is shockingly simple in its execution. It's meaning is what makes it so important.

“A luminary is just a bag with a candle in it,” Jeremy explained. “People can write on it, colour on it in honour of someone who is battling cancer, or even in honour of a caregiver of someone who is battling cancer. Or, in memory of someone who has passed away.”

Perhaps the biggest change people who haven't participated in the Relay for Life recently will notice is the duration. The Relay is now half as long as it once was, six hours instead of 12.

But what hasn't changed is the cause the event supports. Like so many, especially those who volunteer with Relay for Life, Jeremy has been deeply affected by cancer, losing both of her parents to the disease at a young age.

The money raised at Relay for Life is helping to ensure situations similar to Jeremy's are significantly lessened, and ideally, eventually eliminated. In her extensive history with the Canadian Cancer Society and seven years volunteering with Relay for Life, she's seen a lot of advances made in the way cancer battles are fought.

“Why we do it is because we want the research to go through,” she said. “We've seen a lot of research come through that have found cures for certain cancers... and progress in testing.”

For more information on the Orillia relay, look up the Relay for Life in Orillia 2017 event on Facebook.

pbales@postmedia.com

@patrickbales



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