Six months ago, the future of the Relay for Life in Estevan was in doubt, after the initial planning meeting attracted just a few people.
But not only did enough people come together to organize the event, but the amount of money collected was at its highest level in three years.
More than $85,000 was raised for the Canadian Cancer Society and the fight against cancer during this year's relay on June 8 and 9 at the Civic Auditorium. Donations are still coming in, too, said event chair Elva Iwanchuk.
“Cancer affects everyone one way or another through family and friends, and people are very generous when it comes to the cancer society,” Iwanchuk told Lifestyles.
The previous two editions of the relay each brought in around $60,000. This year's goal was $80,000, so Estevan's relay exlipsed its goal.
Twelve teams and 109 participants entered this year's relay. They walked the track for nearly 12 hours, starting at just after 7:30 p.m. on the 7th, and ending at 7 a.m. on the 8th.
In a speech, Iwanchuk said that everyone was there for the same reason: to bring an end to cancer.
“By walking this track tonight, you have joined the millions of people worldwide who want to save lives and create a world with more birthdays,” said Iwanchuk. “Imagine a world with more birthdays, a world where cancer is scarce.”
People who support the Relay for Life allow the cancer society to save lives, find cures and fight back against the disease, Iwanchuk said.
Honourary event chair Marlene Gaudry recapped her battle with cancer during the past 14 months. She paid tribute to her caregivers, particularly her husband Duane, for their support since the diagnosis.
“Although we wish we never had to experience the 'In sickness' portion of our vows, I know, more than ever, how lucky I am to have such a great guy by my side – somebody who has looked at me pale, bald and sick, and told me I look beautiful,” said Gaudry.
Nothing can prepare someone for a cancer diagnosis, she said, and that's why the Canadian Cancer Society and the Relay for Life are so vital.
Also during the opening ceremonies, survivor committee co-chair Carol Cundall was presented with an award from the society for her commitment to peer support programs. And students from Bienfait Weldon School presented a cheque for $5,690.61, which was raised during a Mini Relay for Life in late May.
Cancer survivors walked the relay's opening lap, and they were joined by caregivers for the second lap. All relay participants were on the track by the start of the third lap.
Thirty-nine survivors were part of the opening laps.
A luminary ceremony happened a couple hours before midnight. Participants paused to honour those who are currently battling cancer, and to pay tribute to those who have perished from the disease.
“It's a really touching time for everybody,” said Iwanchuk. “It's when you light your candle for survivors and people who have passed on.”
Entertainment happened throughout the night, highlighted by the always popular Mr. Relay contest.
A Fight Back ceremony occurred a couple hours before the relay's conclusion. Local cancer survivor Larry Elash discussed his battles, and motivated relay participants to keep working towards a cure.
The relay wrapped up with closing ceremonies, when participants learned how much they had raised. Knock Out Cancer was the top fundraising team with $9,298. And there was a victory lap.
Next year's relay will be the 10th in Estevan, and Iwanchuk is already looking forward to the milestone event.