Chelsea Sanyaolu isn’t close to anyone with cancer and she has walked the track at Relay For Life each year for about four years to keep it that way.
“I don’t ever want to see my friends or loved ones touched by cancer,” she said. “I relay so we can find a cure.”
The 24-hour event to raise money for the American Cancer Society will be held at Del Norte High School’s Mike Whalen Field next week and Sanyaolu, who has chaired the event for two years in a row, hopes to get as many people there as possible. From the opening ceremony at 6 p.m. July 21 to the closing ceremony at 6 p.m. July 22, participants will sell food, raffle tickets and art and will walk the track.
Sanyaolu said her goal is to have 150 cancer survivors and their caregivers at the survivor dinner following the opening ceremony. The Ceremony of Hope will be held at 9:30 p.m. and will feature candles lit in memory and in honor of friends and loved ones who have fought or are still fighting cancer.
According to the event webpage at the American Cancer Society’s website, local Relay For Life organizers hope to raise $50,000. So far, people have donated nearly $17,026.
There are about 11 teams that have signed up to relay so far, Sanyaolu said. This year’s theme is “Paint Your World Purple” and “Why Relay.”
“Usually we have a lot of people sign up at the last minute,” she said, adding that the Relay for Life committee, comprised of four volunteers, meets beginning in October to plan the event.
This year in addition to the survivor’s dinner and Ceremony of Hope, there will be a poker run around the track. Participants will get a card for each lap they do and at the end of five laps the best hands will be announced, Sanyaolu said.
There will also be kids games in the evening Friday as well as Jazzercise and Zumba during the day Saturday.
Even though much of the money raised for the American Cancer Society goes toward research, it is also used to provide rides and lodging for cancer patients needing to travel long distances to seek treatment, Sanyaolu said. The American Cancer Society also uses donations to educate people about how a healthy lifestyle can prevent cancer, she said.
Sanyaolu said participation in Crescent City’s Relay for Life has declined over the years and one of the things she would like to do is “build it up.” She said she hopes to get more youth from the local middle schools and high school involved.
One suggestion has been to make Relay For Life a 12-hour event instead of a 24-hour event, but Sanyaolu said that’s not something she’d like to see for Crescent City.
“You have to endure through it. You have to fight,” she said of Relay For Life. “It’s so rewarding just to see everyone out there having a good time. The 24 hours we are doing is actually nothing compared to what (the survivors) have had to endure.”
For more information about Relay For Life, visit www.relayforlife.org/crescentcityca or find Relay For Life on Facebook.