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Why We Participate in Relay For Life

Monday, August 15, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Jennifer Johnson-Joefield, Peninsula Community Health Services

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life movement is the world's largest and most impactful fundraising event to end cancer. It unites communities across the globe to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and take action to finish the fight once and for all. It all started in 1985 in Tacoma, Washington.  Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the nation’s biggest health concern--cancer. A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event. Since those first steps, the Relay for Life movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising nearly $5 billion to fight cancer.  With the support of thousands of volunteers, the American Cancer Society is helping save more than 500 lives a day.

As a community health center it is important to be active in the community and support other partner organizations.  Participating in Relay for Life is a win-win-win event to get involved in.  Win number one, there are events literally everywhere!  Go to the main page at www.relay.acsevents.org and type in your zip code to find a list of nearby Relay for Life events.  Win number two, you will be supporting a fellow non-profit dedicated to more birthdays and ending cancer—something near and dear to all of us in preventative primary care!  Win number three, this family-friendly event outside work builds morale and comradery in the workplace.

Relay for Life is an organized, overnight community fundraising walk made up of teams of people who camp around a high school track.  Team members take turns walking around the track.  The goal is to have a team member present on the track the entire event (24 hours).  Many teams carry a baton around the track throughout the event.  Also during the event there are food, games, and family friendly activities for entertainment and community fellowship. Because it's a team event, individual participants are not required to be there the entire time. But it's so much fun, it’s hard to leave!

This summer’s Relay in Bremerton brought together 39 teams comprised of 274 people and raised $41,399.  For Peninsula Community Health Services (PCHS) it was our second year participating.  Our own Christine Raggi, one of the new ARNPs, was the second top individual fundraiser this year.  The PCHS team came in fourth place for top fundraising teams.  As healthcare workers, we all see so many patients touched by cancer, as well as our own loved ones.  This event is moving and unites us together with the American Cancer Society to battle against cancer.  Many employees brought their families and friends to support the event.

PCHS won first place this year for the team baton contest.  This honor was of particular importance because the team baton was a pair of hot pink boxing gloves in honor of Barbara Malich, PCHS’s former CEO, and her battle this year with breast cancer.  Our boxing gloves toured every PCHS location where employees wrote names of their loved ones who have fought cancer, win or lose, onto the boxing gloves.  The team members walking the track were honored to carry these names and lift them all up at the Relay.

Many moments create each community’s unique Relay experience. Event details vary by location, but all events have key moments in common like the survivor’s lap and luminary ceremony.

During the Survivors Lap, all cancer survivors at the event take the first lap around the track, celebrating their victory over cancer while cheered on by the other participants who line the track. Relay for Life events also recognize and celebrate caregivers, who give time, love, and support to their friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers facing cancer.


The Luminaria Ceremony takes place after dark, to remember people who lost their battle with cancer, honor people who have fought cancer in the past, and support those whose fight continues. Candles are lit inside of personalized bags and are placed around the Relay track as glowing tributes to those who’ve been affected by cancer.


Team PCHS looks forward to Relay for Life next year, and we’ll see you at Relay!


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