Relay for Life organizers here entering home stretch

Published 8:05 pm Saturday, July 17, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life was part of one of the country's most successful cancer prevention fundraisers in the country last year and committee members are anticipating another successful run this year.
By combining with the north county Relay for Life, the Niles-Buchanan relay helped to make Berrien County the second largest fundraiser per capita in the country in 2003. The two events raised more than $540,000.
Relay for Life is a community driven event, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, to raise money for cancer research and awareness.
After months of fundraising and preparation, the Niles-Buchanan relay committee and teams finalized plans for the big event at their last organizational meeting on Wednesday evening at the Riverfront Cafe.
Team captains and the relay committee have been holding these special informational gatherings every month since the event's kick-off in March. This week, they discussed the basics like setting up and tearing down of team displays and the final schedule of events.
There are currently 41 teams on board, ranging in size from three members to 58 members. All of the teams combine for a grand total 623 participants.
The 24-hour event will take place on July 24 and 25 at the Niles High School track with the opening ceremonies to be held at noon on July 24.
American Cancer Society community development director Shelli Stockbarger said Relay for Life is the non-profit organization's signature fundraising event.
She said the fact that it is a community organized fundraiser is what makes it so successful.
Committee member Barb Daniels, whose two parents and husband Dana are all cancer survivors, said it is moving to see so many people working together for the common goal of defeating cancer.
To help make sure the 24-hour event does not slow down, the committee makes sure to pack the weekend full of fun activities like a lip-synching contest, a softball tournament, a marshmallow fight, live music and the Mr. Relay, a beauty pageant for men who dress up like women.
In addition to the fun, there are also some serious and meaningful events aimed at awareness and remembrance.
A survivor lap and dinner will celebrate the many, who were lucky enough to beat cancer, while a Luminaria Ceremony serves as a memorial to those who have lost the battle with cancer.
Relay co-chair Michelle Asmus, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, has high hopes for the Tell-a-Friend program this year.
Tell-a-Friend will set aside 30 cell phones, donated by Centennial Wireless, to allow those in attendance to call women over 40 to remind them to get their yearly mammograms.
Stockbarger pointed out you don't have to be a team member to come out and participate in the event.