By RYAN COOKE/Special to the Advertiser
It's been 10 years since Relay for Life had their first event in Grand Falls-Windsor, and the tradition is still going strong today.
Danielle Cole, steering committee member and captain of her team, anticipates their numbers to be on par with what they were last year. With 28 teams currently registered online, and nearly $20,000 raised already, she is more than satisfied with the outcome.
Cole, who recently turned 19, first got involved with Relay for Life after her grandfather was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Since then, there has been one tragic event after another, that she says keeps her motivated to stay involved with the Canadian Cancer Society.
Her grandfather passed away three years ago, in February. Nine months later, in November, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following October, her cousin was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
It hasn't been an easy ride for Cole, but she says Relay for Life has been there with her and her family throughout all their troubling times.
"When Pop was still alive, it encouraged the whole family to go there and see so many other survivors," she said. "It was encouragement that my pop would do well."
Since he's passed away, Cole remains active with the organization, each year getting more and more involved. She went from being a participant, to a team captain, and now to joining the steering committee. She said she finds the event uplifting, and she's been hooked since her first year.
"Every year, I'm being inspired by seeing how many people are trying to fight cancer and beat it, and seeing how much money is raised and how much people actually care about this, and put their hearts into it."
Joann Ralph can certainly understand that.
After first getting involved five years ago, Ralph has also gone from being a regular participant to joining the steering committee.
With her family having been affected by cancer, she felt it was her duty to help out.
"Cancer has touched everybody. We've had some cancer in our family and the Canadian Cancer Society was there when we needed them," Ralph said. "I figured since I'm healthy, I might as well give back."
Both women agree that one of the reasons for Relay's success over the last 10 years is the unfortunate fact that more and more people are affected by cancer each year, and it is something everybody can relate to.
"There's nobody in our society right now who hasn't been touched in one way or another by cancer," Ralph said. "The Canadian Cancer Society, through Relay for Life, raises the funds that it needs to do all the outreach that it does. Whether it's wigs, or a ride to chemotherapy, or a warm and friendly place to stay when you are away from home and have to receive treatment. That stuff is so important to people who are struggling to deal with cancer."
Ralph said she too has been hooked in by the yearly Relay events, and will continue to be involved in the future.
"It's one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do," she said. "When you go to relay and you see the survivors and they do their lap around the track, and you see their faces...that's when you get it."
Cole says the community involvement each year is very important to everybody involved, as it gives people a place where they can lend a helping hand to one another, year after year.
"I've always felt this community was very supportive of the relay," Cole said. "It says a lot about the community when we can all come together and support each other and raise a lot of money."
She said that aside from the fact that everybody has been affected by cancer in some way, it's also intrinsic in the nature of the province to lend a hand to somebody in need.
"Newfoundlanders are known for being so caring and giving. They'd give their hearts if they could. And I guess that's why we do so well here, because everyone cares about each other," Cole said.
Ralph credits the success over the last 10 years to the support of the community, as well as the volunteers who come back each year to help out. It isn't easy work, she said, but it is certainly worth it.
"You have to really believe in what you are doing. It's tiring, and there's long days. But it's no more than people with cancer are going through. But in the end, it's so rewarding."
Ralph urges anybody who has not yet been involved with Relay for Life to help out this weekend, in any way they can.
"If anybody is available and they're not doing anything on the 25th, it is a remarkable thing to come to Relay for Life."