Last Saturday (May 25), saw the BC Cancer Society’s Relay For Life return to Port McNeill.
It had been four years since the event was last held in the North Island town, but if the weekend’s relay was any indicator, this crucial cancer fundraiser will be back on a regular basis.
Originally established to rotate between Port Hardy and Port McNeill on alternating years, a shortage of volunteers in 2015 resulted in the event moving to Port Hardy on a full time basis. However, this year, through the determined work of Co-Chairs, Dianne Turgeon, Sabrina Dent and their team of volunteers, the 2019 Relay For Life officially made its return.
For the Canadian Cancer Society, The Relay For Life has been their signature fundraiser for the past 20 years. It is their celebration of hope for the community, recognizing the great strides already made in research and treatment, while acknowledging that there is still much to be done.
Over those two decades, the event has grown to encompass 20 countries with participants numbering in the thousands. Money raised goes towards many programs including transportation to treatment appointments, which is a valuable and needed service for communities in the North Island.
According to the local Relay For Life Co-Chair, Dianne Turgeon, the relay attracted over 15 teams and 100 plus walkers from all areas of the Northern Island. Turgeon went on to explain that they exceeded their fundraising goal. “We surpassed our goal of $7,000,” she said, adding, “We set a high goal, and I admit, there were times I wasn’t certain we’d make it. But my wildest expectations were met and surpassed when the people of Northern Vancouver Island came through, as they always seem to do!”
The relay, held at the North Island Secondary School track, was an all smiles event that began with an entertaining warm up hosted by Randi Ward and lead by well-known local photographer and zumba fitness instructor, Kendra Parnham-Hall.
Then, as is traditional for the Relay Of Life, the walk was launched at 6:00 p.m. with a survivors lap, honouring both cancer survivors and those still living with the disease. It was a poignant moment in time as Ashley Potter-Cote, Pam McDermott, Noramay Isaac and Dave and Jackie Deans passed through the raised paddles of the Tri-Port Dragon Boat Society – a salute to their courage – before they circled the track to the applause of participants and spectators.
Following the survivors lap, teams, who were sponsored by individuals and businesses within their communities, lined up to begin the relay. The atmosphere was upbeat and fun, with many teams showing up in costumes or in the case of the Port Hardy Volunteer Fire Department, in full turnout gear.
The weather was perfect, BBQ’s cooked up plenty of food, and water and juice was available throughout the evening as team members took turns over the next six hours, lapping the track and raising money to help in the fight against cancer.
Turgeon explained that it was great to have the event back in Port McNeill, but it would have been impossible without all the help from the many volunteers and sponsors. “I can’t thank the volunteers enough,” she said. “How do you tell people who have given so much of their time that you appreciate them beyond… well… beyond words.”
When asked if there was any one particular moment during the evening that she remembers the most, Turgeon explained it was the luminary ceremony, where a candle is lit and left by the field, along with a note for those loved ones who are always in our hearts.
It was a powerful symbol and a reminder of why the Relay for Life is important to our community.
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