By Kevin Kelley
The annual Relay For Life fundraisers of the American Cancer Society in three Westshore communities will merge to be a single event in 2014.
Fairview Park, North Olmsted and Rocky River will cease to have individual relays next year, said Joelle Kluck, an income development representative with the American Cancer Society. Instead, volunteers, cancer survivors and other supporters will join forces to hold a single event that will most likely take place at the athletics field at Fairview High School, she said.
“Our name will be Tri-City Relay For Life,” Kluck said.
At Relay for Life, teams of people take turns walking or running around a track to raise money from sponsors for cancer research. In most communities, the event lasts for 18 to 20 hours.
Relay volunteers from the three communities attended a meeting Aug. 21 at the Fairview Park Branch Library, at which the merger was announced.
Kluck said the idea for the merger originated with relay volunteers, who were struggling to get people to serve on the various committees required to put on the event. In some cases, organizers were forced to ask team captains to serve on the committees in addition to raising money for their teams, she explained. The result was that much of the work surrounding Relay For Life was being done by just a few people.
“We don’t want to burn anybody out with their commitment level,” Kluck told West Life.
Volunteers who attended the meeting at the library did not express any resistance to combining efforts, Kluck said.
“I think it’s going to be a very positive experience this coming year,” she said of the merged relay. “The volunteers are already working well together.”
Volunteers planning the 2014 Tri-City Relay For Life intend to meet every third Tuesday of the month at the Fairview Park Branch Library.
Although the operations of its fundraisers are periodically reviewed, the American Cancer Society’s intent is for the merger of the three relays to be permanent, Kluck said.
The athletics field at Fairview High School, which had hosted that community’s relays, will likely be the site of the Tri-City Relay. The site and date of the event should be finalized at the end of the month, Kluck said.
The organization has no plans to rotate the fundraiser among the three communities, Kluck said. That was tried at other communities that held combined relays, but did not work, she explained. Settling on a single, permanent venue provides a greater sense of stability to the volunteers, as well as the survivors who attend the event, she added.
Asked if the relay events were still vibrant, Kluck cited a recent report stating that Relay For Life was by far the most successful fundraiser that involved athletic participation. According to the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council, the 5,180 relay events raised $407.5 million in 2012. Coming in second were the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure fundraisers, which garnered $126.8 million. The American Cancer Society fundraisers also had the most participants – 3.4 million, according to the report.
Relay For Life originated in Tacoma, Wash., in 1985 when physician Gordon Klatt raised money for the American Cancer Society by walking around an athletics track for 24 hours.