MARTINEZ, Calif – Later this month, teams of Martinez residents will participate in an annual 24-hour event that not only raises money to fight cancer but also honors those who are battling the disease.
The event is the Relay for Life of Martinez, and its 24-hour time period is a reminder that those dealing with cancer do so 24 hours a day.
“Relay for Life of Martinez is a 24-hour team event,” said Carolyn Hull, event lead.
Different segments of Relay for Life become salutes to those with the disease, memorials for those lost to cancer and recognition not only for those who have survived their fights but also for those who are caregivers of cancer patients.
“Our Relay this year is really starting to take shape,” Hull said. “We have an amazing event leadership team, most of whom have been involved in the planning of the event for many years, so it is like a well-oiled machine.”
Volunteer teams do their own fundraising, and Hull praised their effort. “We have already raised over $20,000!” she said. Past relays have raised more than $900,000, and Hull said she is hoping to beat the $1 million mark this year.
So far, 25 teams have registered for the event, most from Martinez. “But we do have a few teams from other areas. For many teams, this is an important event in their healing/remembrance of a loved one, so even if they move away, they continue to make the trip back every year for Relay.”
New teams always are welcome, and anyone who wants to form a team may visit the website www.relayforlife.org/martinezca, and click “Join this Relay” to register.
“Once they are online, there are many different tools that they have access to,” Hull said. Some will help tams start fundraising. Another aid is the event’s Team Captain’s Meetings, which she said help new teams get tips and information. Those who don’t want to wait until the next meeting, 6 p.m. July 25 at Martinez Junior High School may contact Hull by email at CarolynLHull@gmail.com or visit the Relay’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/RelayForLifeMartinez.
“I can get them the information they need,” she said.
There is no minimum fundraising required, she said, and that’s one thing she likes about Relay for Life. “We want everyone to be able to experience Relay. Participants are encouraged to raise $100 to becomes members of the Hope Club and earn their event T-shirt, but it is not required.”
Individuals also can participate. “Anyone in the community is welcome to come out ande Relay with us – just come and check it out,” she said. Individuals can join the Relay online. “This will give you access to all of the online fundraising tools and will register you for the event, but you will not have a campsite at the event.”
The money is sent to the American Cancer Society, used to fund research and provide services to improve the quality of life of those touched by cancer. “The event is so important for the participants who are walking the track. If you are a newly-diagnosed survivor, it offers hope and support, seeing all of the survivors in attendance. If you are a caregiver, it gives you an opportunity to fight back against this disease when you feel otherwise helpless. For people who have lost a loved one, it offers the opportunity to grieve and be supported by a wonderful community.”
Another option is for individuals to start teams of their own. “As everyone you know to join you,” she said.
Another option is to join the event’s Leadership team “We are always looking for new faces to help us plan our event,” she said.
People also may volunteer. “We could always use ‘day of’ volunteers!” Hull said. “We could use help with manning the registration table, making luminaria bags, setting up – hanging banners, setting up pop-ups, tables and chairs, take-down and various logistical items throughout the day.”
The relay itself starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 28, with opening ceremonies. The first lap is the Survivors Victory Lap.
“A survivor is anyone who has ever heard the words, ‘You have cancer,’ regardless of where they are in their cancer journey,” Hull said. “This is one of my favorite parts of the event, as it is so ful of hope. Survivors are the heart of what we do.”
Then caregivers join the survivors on the track for a lap honoring their own challenges in helping someone with cancer. “All caregivers are invited to join, regardless of whether the survivor they cared for is still with us,” she said.
“After these laps, the event is in full swing,” she said.
Live entertainment energize those walking laps on the track. At campsites, teams play games or have other activities, some of which are additional fundraisers.
“The ‘doggie diner’ is open pretty much all day with yummy food options for when our participants work up an appetite,” she said.
As the night goes on, the relay has themed laps. One is the Road to Recovery, in which teams make a car and pretend to race to pick up a patient for delivery to treatment and then home, representing the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program that provides rides to and from treatments.
“We also have Miss Relay,” Hull said. “The most lovely men of our teams wear their most special dress and compete for the title of Miss Relay. We have a ‘Fight Back’ ceremony to highlight ways we can fight back against cancer. This could include services, prevention and fundraising.”
At dusk, participants take a moment to remember those who died of the disease. The track is lined with luminaria bags that participants have made in honor of a patient or in memory of a lost loved one. Light sticks glow inside the bags that line the track, and that light lasts all night, Hull said. “It is so powerful to see the bags light the way,” she said.
Teams continue to walk the track all night long, entertained later by a movie shown so they can see it as they make their laps. As dawn breaks, preparations are made for breakfast, served before the closing ceremony that starts at 8:30 a.m. and concludes with the final lap at 9 a.m. Sunday, July 29, marking 24 hours of the Relay.
“Cancer never sleeps, so for this one day, neither will we,” Hull said.