Concert this Saturday kicks off fundraiser for Castlegar's only all-night event, the Relay for Life

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 25th, 2010

Castlegar’s only all-night-long, dawn-to-dusk event is back, promising to even more fun, and rewarding, than ever before.

From 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. June 12/13, Kinnaird Park will be the site of the fourth annual Relay for Life, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society – but while it’s for a good cause, the event is so much more than merely a fundraiser.

Tara Kowalchuk, West Kootenay regional coordinator for the relay, says it’s a ridiculously fun community-building exercise, too, with bands playing and entertainment and activities for the kids.

“The idea behind running it throughout the night is that cancer doesn’t sleep – so neither will we,” she says. “It’s a team event, which makes it unique from other fundraisers and walks-a-thons where you just gain pledges.

“Teams of up to 12 each raise money through events like barbecues, car washes, garage sales, talent nights – whatever that group thinks is fun and will raise money – and they do it all together. If, say, we had a group of hairdressers, they might offer haircuts for a day in which all proceeds go to the relay.”

While fun and games abound, the underlying purpose of the event is never forgotten – there’s a survivors lap for those who had fought cancer and won.
“Even if you’ve only had cancer for a day, and you’re still alive, you’re a survivor and we’d love to see you there,” Kowalchuk says. “It’s free to register (see information at bottom of article), but we do ask that you register beforehand, so we know how much food to provide, and how many T-shirts we’ll be giving out.”
Then there’s the luminary ceremony, in honour of all those who are currently battling, or have been lost to, cancer.

“We have these fire-resistance paper bags … you can write the name of someone you love who is fighting cancer or who has passed away from cancer,” she says. “We line the tracks with these bags and light candles inside them, so the whole track is a ring of light (in an otherwise dark night).”

Finally, there’s a ‘fight back’ ceremony at the end to get people revved up to win the war against cancer in the coming year.

Nikki Leggett, a Castlegar mother of four who has lost friends and family to cancer, is participating for the third year in a row now – this year, as team captain for her own two teams (with a third team likely to start up soon), and also in team development.

She said people interested in starting a team aren’t just thrown in the deep end to sink or swin – there a team-captain seminars, and meetings once a month (every two weeks, when it gets closer to relay day).

She says she started volunteering after losing several loved ones to the leading cause of early death in Canada.

“It’s just too many people to lose,” she said, adding she was nervous at the outset.

“I definitely thought it would take some work, but I knew it would be fun and emotional and rewarding, too – and it’s all those things,” she says.

She says her teams have a ball with the fundraisers, doing barbecues, bakes sales …whatever rings their collective bell that year.

“This Saturday, we’re hosting a benefit concert just to raise money for the (relay),” she said. “It’s at the Sandman, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission is by donation, at the door – and the band is paying for the venue, so every penny goes to the relay.”

She says there are five more fundraisers planned after Saturday’s, then it’s tiem for the big event – teams each have their own on-site tent (which they usually decorate), and many teams go in themed costume just to add to the festive appeal.

Last year, almost 300 people participated (with more there just to watch and cheer participants along), and the Castlegar relay raised $39,398, while the Kootenay-wide total was $639,810.

Obviously, they hope to top that number this year, so to sign up your team, register for the survivor lap, donate or get more information, call Kowalchuk at 1-888-413-9911 or visit www.cancer.ca/relay



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