Digby’s Relay for Life hurting for teams

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on May 10, 2014

Only six teams have registered so far for Digby’s Relay for Life.

With just a few weeks to go before the June 6 event, the Digby organizers estimate participants have raised about $10,000. Their goal, like it’s been the last few years, is $50,000.

“We’ve decided to go ahead this year no matter what,” said Nick Westcott, chair of the organizing committee in Digby. “But I’d say we are at risk of losing the relay if we don’t have the support from the community.”

Westcott says 12 teams would be great.

“If we could pull off $30,000 or $40,000, I’d be happy,” he said. “But time is getting short.”

Over its seven years in Digby the relay has had as many as 23 teams.

“A lot of people are burnt out,” said Westcott. “I know some teams have said they wanted to take a break, other teams, if you don’t have a captain or someone willing to take on that role, then sometimes people just let it go.”

Pat Stevens has been team captain for the Municipal Millipedes since the very first relay in Digby.

“It’s disappointing to see so few teams,” she says. “When you think, cancer has touched just about everyone.”

Cancer has certainly touched Stevens’ family.

In 2004 her 11-year-old nephew died from cancer. Another nephew was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 12. He is thankfully 19 now and cancer free.

Her sister-in-law too has battled cancer.

“Then in 2010 my younger sister found out she had bowel cancer,” says Stevens. “She has had a rough go of it but has finally received a clean bill of health. I feel she had a greater chance for survival thanks to the work of the Canadian Cancer Society.

“It’s for these brave people that I participate in the Relay for Life, hoping that some day there will be a cure for cancer.”

Looking back Stevens says the relay helped her deal with struggles she didn’t even know were coming.

“I had a purpose,” she says. “It’s a good cause. Every year we give money to Daffodil Place, the Lodge the Gives, the help line. These are programs that help people from right here in our area.”

[See Pat Stevens 'Why I relay' page]

For Stevens though, the relay is more than just a good cause.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “We always make sure it’s an enjoyable night—we’re one big family trying to raise money for a good cause.”

Stevens remembers dressing up as a Rubik’s Cube one year when they had an 80’s theme; another year, when the theme was “Your biggest fan” she dressed up as a ceiling fan, with spinning blades attached to a helmet.

Stevens has also shaved her head three times as a means of attracting more donations.

One year after she raised $500, she promised she’d shave her head the next year if she doubled her donations

“It’s only hair,” she says. “Within three months I need a haircut. But people who lose their hair because of chemotherapy, their hair falls out root and all and it takes much much longer to grow back.”

Stevens hopes more teams sign up soon.

“It’s once a year, it’s one night,” she said. “We say ‘Cancer never sleeps’ so the idea is to stay up one night and fight back.”

In Clare, the organizers have switched to a daytime relay this year, going from noon to midnight, and so far they have 12 teams.

Westcott says a daytime relay would also attract more drop in visitors from the community, and it’s something they may look at next year.

He says a lot of people have also switched from canvassing to group fundraising.

“A lot of teams now hold a bake sale or a barbecue, some fundraiser together and bring in money that way,” he said.

Digby’s organizing committee also holds a yard sale for the whole relay at the curling club – this year’s was today (Saturday).

It costs $10 to register for the relay but there’s no minimum amount that people have to raise.

“We always say that $100 is a good goal but some do less and some do way more than that,” said Westcott.

Digby’s relay will be held in the rink parking lot (or moved inside if the weather is really bad).

Participants can start setting up their site and tents at 4 p.m. and the opening ceremonies are at 7 p.m.

They start the relay with a survivors’ lap and a caregivers lap and then the goal is to have at least one member from each team walking at all times all night.

There will also be the luminary lighting and a hair cutting ceremony for people donating their hair for wigs.

Organizers have planned a kitchen party jam session for this year’s relay, Vanessa Pulley will be leading Zumba and a relay race will go on throughout the night.

To register a team or for more information check out the webpage for Digby’s Relay for Life.

The Digby relay also has a Facebook page.