Brooklyn Cox of Port Hardy carries a candle just after sunset during the 2014 Relay for Life in Port McNeill. The 2015 event moves to Port Hardy and will be shortened to six hours

Brooklyn Cox of Port Hardy carries a candle just after sunset during the 2014 Relay for Life in Port McNeill. The 2015 event moves to Port Hardy and will be shortened to six hours

Relay for Life goes big by downsizing

PORT HARDY-Annual fundraiser for Canadian Cancer Society slims down from 12 hours to six-hour event this spring

PORT HARDY—The North Island’s annual Relay for Life is looking to get bigger. By going smaller.

The fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society, facing declining participation in both the Mount Waddington region and in Campbell River, is trimming the 12-hour, overnight relay down to a six-hour event in those communities this spring.

“Unfortunately, the numbers have been declining every year,” said Lisa Harrison, the Canadian Cancer Society’s Community Giving coordinator for the North Island. “We’ve found in surveys, talking to teams and participants, that 12 hours is just too much. We’ve decided to do a shorter event instead of cancelling it and losing those fundraising dollars.”

The North Island Relay for Life is scheduled for May 23 at Port Hardy Secondary School track, beginning at 6 p.m. Campbell River’s relay is scheduled for June 19 at Phoenix Middle School, also at 6 p.m.

Instead of the traditional walk or run from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., participants will be released at midnight. The Relay’s signature moments — the Survivors’ Lap, the lighting of the luminaries for those lost to the disease, and the Fight Back ceremony — will remain and be compressed into the shortened format.

“I believe in the whole 12-hour concept, because the point is cancer never sleeps,” said Harrison, who began volunteering with the North Island relay five years ago after watching her mother-in-law succumb to cancer. “And I’m sure there will be survivors offended by (the change). But we’re trying a new spin on it and feedback has been really good. People can be there, bring their kids, and still be home at midnight.”

Harrison promised the North Island relays will still feature all the entertainment, food and fun of the 12-hour version. It will just be compressed into the shorter time frame. A theme has also been added this year — Super Hero: Saving the World from Cancer, One Lap at a Time.

Harrison and her fellow North Island organizers are also looking to re-introduce the baton to give the event a true relay feel.

“The purpose of the relay will be the same — celebrating survivors and remembering those lost,” she said. “The important thing is raising money for cancer research, and keeping the whole thing alive on the North Island.”

Registration for teams and individuals is now under way at www.relayforlife.ca. The fee is $10 per person through the early-bird registration deadline Mar. 1, and $20 afterward. Those who sign up during the early bird period will also be entered in a draw for an iPad and a $100 Visa card.