Relay for Life returns to Findlay on Saturday, kicked off by a survivors’ dinner. Organizers have streamlined the local relay into just one community event, rather than the separate events held previously. The relay will be held in the Koehler Fitness Center at the University of Findlay and is expected to draw about 500 participants. (Photo provided)

By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF

Staff Writer

Relay for Life, a nationwide celebration and fundraiser in the fight against cancer, returns to Findlay this weekend.

This year’s theme is “Wild for a Cure,” and 30 to 40 teams are expected to participate in the American Cancer Society-sponsored event.

“There is no age requirement. There are no fundraising requirements. It’s just truly a family event,” said community development manager Allison Boesel.

One major change this year is that the previously separate community and University of Findlay relays have been combined into one, she said. The event will be held from 1-6 p.m. Saturday at Koehler Fitness Center on campus.

“For a while there, the high school (also) had their own event, so there were three relays for probably a solid three years,” she said.

It was a lot, and it stretched people thin.

“They’ve got to pick and choose which one they want to support so really, it just makes sense that we have one big event in the community,” Boesel said. “And the college event is the perfect one, I think, to merge with the community, because there’s so much energy there, and the students are always so excited to do this.”

Nationwide, Relay for Life celebrates its 35th year in 2019.

“We are in every state across the country. We’re in 26 countries in the world,” Boesel said.

Findlay/Hancock County has been home to a relay for well over 20 years. Relays started out as 24-hour overnight events.

“Over the last few years, it evolved to 18-hour overnight events. We’ve had 12-hour events. We’ve had six-hour events,” she said. “I think the time commitment has gotten to be a lot for some of our volunteers. There is so much that goes on now. Family life happens. Work life happens.”

What hasn’t changed, she said, is the focus on survivors and the luminaria ceremony during which participants come together to honor or remember someone who has faced cancer.

Teams still set up their own areas around the track, and people still walk, said Boesel. But it’s not a requirement for each team to have a member on the track the entire time.

“We know that some teams have maybe three team members, some have 30, so that’s not always feasible. We just want someone walking all the time,” she said.

It’s also not necessary for a person to be part of a team. She said an individual can come out and walk, too.

“What’s great about Relay For Life is that it truly is a community event. So whatever the community wants to do, they can do it,” Boesel said.

A cancer survivors’ dinner will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. Friday at the Alumni Memorial Union’s south multipurpose room, 164 Frazer St. Dinner is sponsored by the Colleges Against Cancer student organization and is open to all survivors. Today is the deadline to register with Jon Nugent at nugentj@findlay.edu or 219-252-0113.

All survivors receive a purple T-shirt, which they are welcome to wear during Saturday’s survivor lap at 1 p.m.

“The more survivors we can get, the better, because it’s just so cool to see that big group of purple walking around the track,” Boesel said.

Activities will also include food, inflatables, raffles and entertainment. Registration will be at the front doors of the Koehler Center.

Boesel expects the event to attract some 500 participants.

“If someone can’t walk, just come and sit down and hang out,” she said.

This year’s goal is $40,000. (Last year, the university alone raised $36,000.) Money raised goes to the mission of the American Cancer Society.

“So we are funding groundbreaking research every day, everywhere. We’ve got services and programs to help cancer patients, tons of resources and education to make sure people know what they can do to help prevent cancer, what they can do if they get that diagnosis,” Boesel explained.

One of the best features offered, she said, is the toll-free phone number, 800-227-2345.

“I know people think, well 800 numbers, how many numbers do I have to push to get to somebody,” she said. “We have somebody on the line 24/7. So you can call at 3 in the morning. You can call Christmas Day. We have somebody there.”

And while you might talk to someone answering the phone in Texas, you will be given local resources, she said.

The society also assists cancer patients with securing transportation to and from their treatments.

And while funds raised at relay do not stay in the area directly, local people still benefit, Boesel said.

“Actually right now, we just awarded a researcher at the University of Toledo. Over the next few years, this researcher will receive $800,000 from the American Cancer Society to help with her research,” she said. “This is the first time in six or seven years that we’ve had something as local as Toledo, which is so exciting. I just love thinking that a really big breakthrough could be coming out of Toledo.”

Teams and individuals can still register at www.relayforlife.org/uf, or by just attending the day of the relay. Teams can be made up from different businesses, schools, churches or family and friends.

Luminaria can be purchased for $10 in honor or in memory of someone. A ceremony with the luminaria lining the track will be held later in the afternoon.

Participants are encouraged, but not required, to raise $100. This qualifies them as a member of the Hope Club, and they will receive a T-shirt designating them as such.

The more participants raise, the more incentives are available, “but we’re happy with any amount you can do. We’re just happy for you to come out,” Boesel said.

Some people make fundraising for the relay a year-round event, she said.

“We encourage that, because cancer’s not just one day a year,” Boesel said. “We need to fund our mission every day.”

Donations can be made online, the day of the event, or mailed to the American Cancer Society, North Central Region, 740 Commerce Drive Suite B, Perrysburg 43551. For more information, contact Boesel at allison.boesel@cancer.org or 567-331-1248.

Wolf: 419-427-8419

jeanniewolf@thecourier.com

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