Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life in need of volunteers

NILES — An event that has helped to garner thousands of dollars to support the lives and programs of cancer patients is seeing a decline in volunteers.

Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life chair Suzie Hipshear is calling on community members across Berrien and Cass counties to donate their time to a worthy cause, whether it is an hour of their time or year-round.

The organization’s first meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Jan. 15 at the First United Methodist Church in Buchanan, 132 S. Oak St.

Volunteer numbers have been on the decline for the past five years, Hipshear said.

“It makes it a lot harder on everyone, so I think they burn out a lot faster,” Hipshear said. “You keep losing people and not picking up as many as you’re losing.”

Those who join the Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life team help to fundraise year-round to support the American Cancer Society, as well as local organizations like “Look Good Feel Good,” which helps cancer patients get access to items like wigs and other aesthetic necessities that make a difference. Funds also support Hope’s Lodge, where cancer patients can get a hotel room nearest their treatment and Road to Recovery, which gives cancer patients free rides to appointments.

Hipshear cited the lack of knowledge about what the money supports as perhaps one reason why volunteer numbers have declined.

“I don’t think they understand that the money is not just for research, it is for local programs,” Hipshear said.

With a number of people having complex and also busy schedules, Hipshear said volunteers do not have to give a whole lot to help a ton. She said volunteers are welcome to serve as long as they wish, whether that’s an hour or every day leading up to the fundraising finale in July.

Hipshear has been involved with the Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life for 18 years. She first started participating in the event for her brother, Ron, who was battling cancer at the time. Ron passed away from cancer, but Hipshear has continued to fight with the hope that a cure is on the horizon.

“I used to do it for hope for him, but now I fight for the hope of other people,” Hipshear said

Hipshear’s daughter Chelsea Hipshear was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Nov. 2010. Throughout her battle, Chelsea utilized some American Cancer Services that showed her support and eventually helped her to overcome her battle with cancer. Now 24 years old, Chelsea fights alongside her mother to raise cancer awareness and funds to fight the disease through the Relay for Life.

Also joining the fight is Janet Wartman, a four-time cancer survivor who is joining the Relay for Life cause this year as a staff partner.

“She is going to be awesome and all about this event,” Hipshear said. “She loves this and wants to keep it going. Her heart is really in it, same with everybody who helps at this event.”

After nearly a year of fundraising, organizers celebrate with the Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life finale, which includes a survivors’ ceremony and multiple teams walking around the track to help spread and promote awareness of cancer. This year’s Relay for Life has been scheduled for July 14.

Despite volunteer numbers being down last year, Hiphshear said she was proud that the organization was able to raise about $54,000 for the cause. This year, she’s hoping for even better, she just hopes to have a little more help getting there, she said.

“[Let’s] get rid of [cancer],” Hipshear said. “It feels good and you get to see all the survivors that come to the event … and when you see that ‘wow, this really makes a difference.’ We really need your help. Please come check us out.”

With a number of people having complex and  busy schedules, Hipshear said volunteers do not have to give a whole lot to help a ton. She said volunteers are welcome to serve as long as they wish, whether that is an hour or every day leading up to the fundraising finale in July.

Hipshear has been involved with the Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life for 18 years. She first started participating in the event for her brother, Ron, who was battling cancer at the time. Ron passed away from cancer, but Hipshear has continued to fight with the hope that a cure is on the horizon.

“I used to do it for hope for him, but now I fight for the hope of other people,” Hipshear said

Hipshear’s daughter, Chelsea Hipshear, was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in November 2010. Throughout her battle, Chelsea utilized some American Cancer Services that showed her support and eventually helped her to overcome her battle with cancer. Now 24 years old, Chelsea fights alongside her mother to raise cancer awareness and funds to fight the disease through the Relay for Life.

Also joining the fight is Janet Wartman, a four-time cancer survivor who is joining the Relay for Life cause this year as a staff partner.

“She is going to be awesome and all about this event,” Hipshear said. “She loves this and wants to keep it going. Her heart is really in it, same with everybody who helps at this event.”

After nearly a year of fundraising, organizers celebrate with the Niles-Buchanan Relay for Life finale, which includes a survivors’ ceremony and multiple teams walking around the track to help spread and promote awareness of cancer. This year’s Relay for Life has been scheduled for July 14.

Despite volunteer numbers being down last year, Hiphshear said she was proud that the organization was able to raise about $54,000 for the cause. This year, she is hoping for even better. She just hopes to have a little more help getting there, she said.

“[Let’s] get rid of [cancer],” Hipshear said. “It feels good and you get to see all the survivors that come to the event … and when you see that, ‘wow, this really makes a difference.’ We really need your help. Please come check us out.”

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