WHY I RELAY:
I started with Relay when it first started in Alliston as a favour to my Dad. I had never heard of it and was not good at selling luminaries since I had no idea what on earth they were – or why candles in paper bags around tents could possibly be considered a good idea. (Actually wondered if the fire chief had heard about this crazy thing) My brother had just finished a grueling round of induction chemo and a stem cell transplant and was only just getting his feet back under him. Like all families, we had been touched by Cancer before, my Grandfather lost his battle very shortly after his 40th Wedding anniversary – one he very stubbornly held on to make, and my Aunt had battled and won. Many friends had battled – some won, some still fighting and some lost.
The pure magic of Relay – the overwhelming feeling of community that enveloped me that first night, the light it brought to my brothers eyes – seeing the other survivors and being asked to speak on their behalf, the energy it brought to my parents – who had been struggling with that awful feeling of helplessness to do something for their child , the insanely disproportionate feeling of accomplishment for pitching a tent and raising a few hundred dollars – because we had done it TOGETHER was indescribable.
At 3 am while sitting at our campsite with feet raised for a bit along with my neighbours and friends that I had bullied & cajoled into joining us, I was afraid that they would be ticked off with me – I didn’t realize that they felt the magic just as much as I did. One neighbor who had made the mistake of removing her shoes (briefly she thought) was unable to get them back on due to swelling and seemed quite miserable – asked me to check on a luminary to make sure it was still lit. It was her mother’s. I had never known she’d lost her Mom very young to cancer – it had never come up in casual conversation. Then she asked when we could sign up to do it again next year and started making plans to expand on our hastily thrown together team theme. That’s what she could do. It started to sink in –why this felt so special, why I was enjoying this so much – it was WHAT I COULD DO. I could not perform the research that would save lives or make them better – but I could DO THIS – I could raise money for those that could, and I could make this wonderful event that seemed to provide so much strength and comfort to so many survivors as good as it could possibly be.
I joined the steering committee for the next year and have been on it ever since. I have taken care of Entertainment, Luminaries, Food, and now – this year – the entire event. Well – in truth you don’t “take care” of the entire event – you herd the cats that do. And our group of cats to herd is really special
I got asked yesterday if I didn’t need to “take a break”, wasn’t it hard to do year after year? I had to think about that. My brother’s battle unfortunately was lost last year, and had been a driving force to get me into this – but he was not alone – others are making great progress, showing really positive signs, beating it inch by bloody inch – staying cancer free – leaving it behind – healing from their surgical scars and their emotional scars. I see the happy, relieved faces of the family and friends of those that have won or are winning, and the pain, sorrow and loss of those that will light their candles “in memory”. I think of the battles that have started and ended since I started this – my best friend’s breast cancer – diagnosed, treated and being left in the past, my father’s prostate cancer – diagnosed, treated and left in the past – caught early due to better detection tools and information, treated without deadly side effects thanks to research to make chemo able to work on the cancer without killing the patient and improved surgical techniques. They will both proudly wear “the yellow t-shirts” again this year.
I don’t need a break – I need help – I need more people to commit themselves to this effort – this battle in the long war. I look at the aging faces of so many volunteers for the Canadian Cancer Society and I know this – it’s my turn – it’s our turn – my generation needs to step up and take the torch they have been carrying for a long time.
I also get a huge amount of positive energy working on this event. Every business that asks “what can we do” – every sponsor that digs deep to provide what we need – every committee member that says “I can do that” – every team captain that works so hard to make their team successful – they all give me back every bit of energy and more than I ever expend working on it. It’s hard to describe just how rewarding it really is. A five minute phone call to a volunteer can leave me smiling for an hour.
The pride that I have in this community because we get everything we ask for – even when we know it’s not always easy for those doing the giving – because they too know – it’s our turn and THIS IS WHAT WE CAN DO. It’s like the entire community feels the same way. How special and how rare is that? It leaves me with a sense of wonder that fuels my efforts. I want more people to have this incredible experience, I want more people to feel this awesome positive feedback, I want to reach out and wrap this warm happy hug feeling around as many as I can.
They say that we Relay overnight because Cancer never sleeps – I think it’s partly also because when we lose someone we love, we pretty much suck at sleeping for a while too – and so that night we don’t sleep as a sign of solidarity – as a coming together to fight through the darkness and allow new dawns for as many more as possibly can.
I’ll take a break when cancer does.
ROSE MARIE BOWEN
My husband Ed and I have just retired from the business community after 38 years as owners of Carline Automotive Services. We have lived in Cookstown and Egbert all our lives, raising two children in the communities and having a business in Alliston, While I have given countless hours and years to various community organizations and events I now passionately volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. My position on the committee is Survivor Chairperson which I have done for 9 years and just retired from being the Event Chair for the past three years.
Why do I Relay? Cancer has created one too many sad moments in my life. My mother battled breast cancer, a young nephew and beloved brother continue in their journey of cancer and I have lost so many friends and customers.
The Relay For Life Event is much more than a fundraiser to me. This event is unique and unforgettable for all those involved. It brings our communities together with a determination like no other, to Fight Back at Cancer.
In this endeavor you will witness friends and families holding on to each other for support, sharing stories, laughing and crying, enjoying life and appreciating the time together for one night each year. Travelling in the same direction together and believing TOGETHER WE WILL WIN THIS BATTLE OVER CANCER.
We celebrate the lives of Survivors, remember those we have lost with love and sadness,
continue on this long struggle of supporting scientists and research, providing educational funds on living a better lifestyle to avoid getting cancer, giving a free hand to those in need in their journey to overcome this horrible disease, and support all the organizations that are truly making a difference.
The enormous support given our researchers has resulted in a brighter future in our battle against over two hundred different cancers. A greater percentage of our friends and families are winning their cancer journey and living well beyond our expectations.
Survivors give us the hope and encouragement to journey on!
Please join me at the Survivor Ceremony on Friday June 14, 2013.
Online Marketing Chair
Judy is a graphic designer and the co-owner of JL Digital Design.
With Judy’s experience in social media, graphic design and web design, she is the administrator of the Facebook Page for the Alliston Relay, and her Graphic & Web Design studio is proud to be a Community Sponsor for this event.
“This will be my 6th year on the Alliston Relay For Life Leadership Committee. I Fight Back for my mom, Donna, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in August of 2010. My mom was given 2 to 6 months to live, but defeated the odds and fought to be with us for a year and a half. She passed away peacefully on January 10th, 2012.
I know that the money we raise through Relay For Life for the Canadian Cancer Society is saving lives, and improving the quality of those living with cancer. Please join me in The Fight!”
Bob was the event chair for 2007 and 2008 and has been working with Relay For Life in Alliston since it started in 2005. From the first year Bob realized that Relay For Life had a dual meaning and is committed to Relay – for life.
Bob has a background in project management and has worked on a variety of construction, renovation and hazardous material projects as well as project development and design. He also worked locally at Alliston Home Building Centre and spent three years on Council in New Tecumseth (2003- 2006) and is now back on Council for the next four years.
This picture symbolizes the reason why I Relay. This is from 2009, the first Relay my mom came to in Alliston. My mom is a Survivor of breast cancer. Walking with my mom on that victory lap was emotional for me as I looked at my mom and my daughter. I was reminded then how extremely blessed I am for having my mom when so many have lost theirs and the relationship I have watched my daughter have with her grandma. My family (parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew) is very proud of my involvement with Alliston Relay For Life and have made the three hour drive to participate in our Relay For Life for a few years now. I am proud to say that my niece has taken up the battle against cancer in Kitchener. Lauren (along with friends) have been making bracelets and key chains to sell so they can raise money to donate to Relay For Life. She will also be participating with her grade four class at her local Relay with her family. While I will miss them this year, I know that my family will continue to fight and hopefully ignite the fire in others to continue the fight with them. Cancer sucks, family and friends make life worth living and together we will beat cancer.
Maija moved to Alliston in 2007 from Northern Ontario and is a reporter for Metroland’s Alliston Herald newspaper. She was volunteered for the Relay For Life Alliston committee in 2011, but has willingly returned every year since to continue raising awareness and money for the incredibly important programs, services and research run by the Canadian Cancer Society.
In 2009, I came out to my first Relay for Life event. A friend had asked me to join their team in support of their family member that was battling breast cancer. We wore pink scarves and decorated our tent and the perimeter of our space with pink items in honour of breast cancer.
The relay was a life changing event for me. I knew that this was something that was close to my heart, something that I wanted to continue to be a part of. In 2011, I decided to volunteer, I helped out in the survivor tent and the food tent. I thoroughly enjoyed being in the presence of all these volunteers who wanted to help out too. I can’t say enough good things about what a great group of people we have.
My family has been touched with cancer, my father had a long battle with cancer. In 2010, I convinced my parents to attend their first ever relay and I know first hand that it changed their lives. My father proudly wore the yellow survivor t-shirt as we walked with him around the track for the first lap, which, is the survivor lap. He told so many people about this event that he attended, and he expressed how much he enjoyed the event. He passed away in March, 2011, my mother and I still volunteer for the event every year. We always purchase luminaries in his memory. Although, he can’t be with us anymore, he is always close in thought.
I feel so blessed to be part of this worthy cause, and my only hope is that I can somehow inspire more people to help me join the fight. Please, if you know someone who is battling cancer or who is a survivor encourage them to come out to the event. Sometimes when we are fighting the fight we feel like we are all alone. Let us all be there for one another, it is a night of reflection, sorrow, laughter and reminiscing. When the luminaries light the track there is such of a feeling of exhilaration.