Community Builders: Relay for Life

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Relay for Life is a yearly fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that celebrates cancer survivors, honors caregivers, and remembers those who have lost the battle to this dreaded disease. According to Delma Talley, Event Co-lead along with Sheila King, “It’s never too early to start planning for a good thing!” They, along with ACS Community Manager Kelsie Oliver, encourage you to initiate your 2021 calendar now by penciling in “Relay for Life” on Saturday, May 1, 2021! Due to COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 Conroe and Walker County event has been canceled. Their focus and energies are now aimed toward the 2021event which will take place at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds Pavilion from 2-10 PM.

In addition to accomplishing the goals noted above, this event also serves as a source of healing for families who have lost loved ones to cancer, a reason that Delma has chosen to be involved in Relay for Life. In her words, “My friend Amy lost her husband after 3 years of marriage, much too young. And soon thereafter I watched another friend lose her husband to cancer, followed by the loss of her 12- year-old son to the same cancer 9 months later. I continue to see many of my friends and church family struggle with this monster. My friend Amy and her husband were both involved with Relay for Life, and recognizing the needs and struggles, I got involved, too. I work and walk for the survivors, because someday, someone may need to walk for me.”

According to the American Cancer Society, predictions for new cancer cases in Texas for 2020 are 129,770, with an estimated 41,810 deaths due to cancer this same year. Funds raised through local events such as the Relay for Life are used to supply critical services that touch all aspects of the cancer journey for patients, families, and medical communities. In 2018, $36,472,119 was invested in our state for research, funding studies to find the causes of and better treatments for cancer and to improve the lives of cancer patients. To improve these lives, the ACS Cancer Resource Network includes:

INFORMATION

  • National Cancer Information Center (800-227-2345): Patients can speak with trained cancer information specialists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get answers to questions and links to local resources.
  • Personal Health Manager: A toolkit for newly diagnosed cancer patients that provides specific cancer information in a packaged format.
  • www.cancer.org: A user-friendly website that includes an interactive cancer resource center containing in-depth information on every major cancer type. Visitors can access recent news articles, info on local resources, advocacy efforts and special events in their area.
  • Clinical Trial Matching Service: Information on clinical trial participation and treatment options.

DAY-to-DAY HELP

• Patient navigators: Provide one-on-one support and connect patients and caregivers to Society services including more than 5000 local and national resources.

• Insurance Information Resource: Help with understanding insurance issues and possible insurance options available to patients with or without insurance.

• Transportation: Volunteer drivers provide transportation to and from cancer-related appointments.

• Gift Items: ACS provides gift items including comfort pillows, wigs, hats, and materials related to rehabilitation programs.

• Lodging: Hotel Partners program provides temporary lodging for patients receiving outpatient treatment who must travel more than 50 miles from home when lodging would provide financial hardship.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

  • Support Groups: a variety of ongoing support groups designed to help patients, their families, and friends better understand and learn to live with cancer.
  • Online Support through Cancer Survivors Network SM: free online support community that provides opportunities to communicate with others who have experienced cancer.
  • I Can Cope®: Online classes that include topics such as fatigue, pain, nutrition, and other pertinent matters.
  • Reach to Recover: A breast cancer support group
  • Look Good…Feel Better®: A free program that helps women cancer patients improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them hands-on beauty techniques to overcome the appearance-related side effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Programs are facilitated by a certified cosmetologist and participants received a free make-up kit.

Services may vary from community to community. More information and specific services available in your area can be obtained by calling 800-227-2345, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This spring, HOPE Lodge is opening a facility in the Houston area which will provide lodging near medical facilities for patients and family members who would ordinarily need to drive long distances each day for continuous treatments. During the present coronavirus crisis, the hotel is being utilized by first responders and medical personnel who have found themselves on the front lines of the COVID-19 event.

Fundraising from Relay for Life and other annual events all funnel to the parent organization, ACS, and are then distributed as needs dictate. The importance of local events, therefore, is essential to the success of ACS so these and other services can be provided for patients, families, and medical studies. It starts with individuals getting involved!

What does a Relay for Life event look like? According to Delma, expect to have an experience filled with fun, laughter, celebration, deep meaning, and emotional healing–all rolled into one afternoon and evening with new friends, old friends, and family members! The event consists of a walk from 2-10 pm, where team members take turns walking the track to symbolize the ongoing fight against cancer. Between laps you can check out other teams’ tents for games and activities and help support the cause by purchasing raffle tickets and food. At 9 pm, a very meaningful Luminaria event takes place. Luminaria which has been purchased and decorated in memory of loved ones are placed around the track. Each luminaria contains alight and, as hundreds of lights softly illumine the night, 30 minutes of silence are observed to honor each person represented. “This is a very touching ceremony,” remarks Delma, “and I have seen a great deal of family healing take place at this time.”

How can you be a part of this meaningful celebration? Relay for Life offers several avenues of participation. The following are a few opportunities for you to consider:

  • Be a Sponsor for the event. Sponsorships begin at $250 and these provide a solid start for a highly successful event.
  • Sponsorships can also be in-kind through the donation of supplies and equipment for the event. to Join the Leadership team in planning and helping to facilitate activities.
  • Register as a Survivor, Participant, or form a Team to fundraise and/or provide free services.
  • Donate items to the Silent and Live auctions.
  • Be a Vendor (Vendors donate 25% of their proceeds toward the fundraising goal).
  • Purchase a track sign that will be on display around the track.
  • Come and be part of this fundraising experience for our communities.

Survivors and caregivers are at the heart of every Relay for Life event. Activities are designed specifically for meeting others within the cancer community and developing networks of friends and support. As Delma shares, “Cancer is something that is faced together, not individually.”

On December 5, 2020, a Bark for Life event will be held from 9 a.m. – noon at the Frisky Biscuit Dog Park at Grand Central Park in Conroe. This canine-focused event supports canine caregivers and canine cancer survivors. Activities will include pictures with Santa and contests for best canine costume and best trick. More details will be announced about this event at a later date. To stay informed about events, go to one of the following sites: www.relayforlife.org/conroeandwalkercotx, Relay for Life Of Conroe; https://www.facebook.com/BarkFor-LifeConroe/. You may also contact Delma Talley at delma@shsu.edu, Sheila King at sking1973@gmail.com or Kelsie Oliver at Kelsie.oliver@cancer.org. Get involved and be a part of the solution to say,

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