Relay relations!

Heather Killen
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A little sisterhood goes a long way

With the annual Relay For Life now just a few short months away, one of Middleton’s top teams is starting to think a bit about fundraising.

Sisters United was formed in 2005 and since that time, this team has raised more than $40,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life in Middleton.

Sara Chisholm, team captain, says that over the years the team has changed its name, its themes, and even its members. But the spirit that unites and inspires them is always the same.

A few of the sisters are cancer survivors -- and everyone has been in some way touched by cancer. Chisholm says all are sisters in spirit with a few members related by blood, some by marriage.

The first year the team rallied in support of Jane Bustin. They went by the name Sister Act and dressed like nuns. The next year it was a big pajama party. By the third year a few promised they would join the relay, but wouldn’t be able to spend the night.

That year they all dressed as Cinderella, so that anyone who needed to leave early could be home by midnight, Chisholm jokes. For the first few years, she admits they weren’t the most ambitious fundraisers.

 

Raising Funds

“We’d come up with $100 each and be so proud of ourselves,” she laughs. “We’re not very organized, it’s like herding cats. We’d wait until the last minute and then start asking friends and family for support.”

She added that they really didn’t keep track of the money they raised during the first few years.

That changed in 2010, when Deborah Bent Page, Chisholm’s sister-in-law was diagnosed with gastric cancer. That year the sisters united under the name “Deb’s Army” and raised a jaw-dropping $11,000.

“She was the center of our circle and the one who brought us all together,” said Chisholm. “She was fun to be around. She knew how important it was for women to have other women in their lives and fostered that in all of us.”

Deb was the heart of the group, bringing everyone together for a Friday night phone date, or a celebration of August birthdays. The year she was sick, as the top fundraising team, they earned the hardtop trailer, the top spot in the tent village.

 

Bittersweet

This victory was bittersweet as Deb was rushed to the emergency room that day and never had a chance to go to the Relay. A few short months later, in July, Deb died.

 “She was one of the reasons we are sisters. She brought everyone together,” says Chisholm. “She was always reminding us that it had been too long and we needed to unite. She brought old and new friends together and we will always be grateful for those connections.”

Deb believed in getting involved, donating time, caring about the community and she was always one of the first to raise her hand and pitch in, said Chisholm.

“When she was diagnosed, she was told that it was too bad she didn’t have a different kind of cancer, because gastric cancer treatments were limited,” said Chisholm. “This made her angry and made her want to fight back. She dreamed of a massive fundraiser called “Bust-a-Gut” for gastric cancer research, so that the next person who came along with gastric cancer wouldn’t have to hear what she had heard.”

 

A Top Team

Chisholm credits team mate Lisa Gallivan with raising the lion’s share of the team’s whopping amounts over the last few years. Three of the past four Relays have found the team in the top three spots.

“Everybody knows somebody, everybody wants to do something,” she said. “Deb gave us focus.”

The sisters carry on many of the traditions Deb started including the August and Christmas get-togethers, but now instead of exchanging gifts, they take up their collections to help a survivor. It seems like someone always knows someone who is fighting cancer and needs a bit of help.

Emily and Ellen Bent, Deb’s daughters have joined the team in her place. Over the years Chantal Pineo Atwood, Kathryn Morse, Kathy Taylor, Kashyn Taylor, Brenda Taylor, Jodi Pineo, Angie Hunter, Stacey Bent, Megan Armstrong, Gail Boutilier, Kim Jones, Marilyn Hatfield, Dorothy Spinney, Laura Morse, Joan Johnson, Cricket Maxwell, and Kelly Crouse have all been a part of Sisters United.

 

Inspirational Experience

Chisholm says being a part of the relay has been a fun and inspirational experience for her. She added it doesn’t matter how much money is raised, it’s the spirit of people coming together that makes it worth joining.

Now, with the ability to collect donations online, it’s even easier to fundraise, she added. While they still hold the occasional bake sale, most of the donations come in online and there isn’t the flurry of last minute appeals to friends and family.

“It’s never been about raising the money. If I think about raising $10,000, I don’t know how to do that, it’s too stressful,” she said. “It’s never been about winning, it’s about doing what you can do.”

For more information on the Relay For Life in Middleton, to support Sisters United, or find information on how to enter a team, visit www.cancer.ca

Organizations: Sisters United, Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Middleton

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