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Interview-Relay for Life Helps So Many

By: Margaret Hansen

As the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday, Relay for Life (RFL) fundraisers are happening all over the country, especially here in New England. JobsInTheUS.com's Relay for Life team "Live Work Give" exceeded their goal by raising well over $3,000 for the American Cancer Society through some creative efforts.

"This year, our giving committee decided to focus on the American Cancer Society first, since, unfortunately, almost everyone knows somebody who has battled cancer," said Rick Perron, JobsInTheUS.com's team captain for RFL.

"We have received so much support - from those who volunteered their time, brainstormed fundraising ideas, walked at the event... to those who donated money, purchased 50/50 raffle tickets and prepared weeks of homemade food for breakfast, lunch and bake sales. These efforts mean more than just raising money, however. Participating in Relay has helped us celebrate those who have overcome cancer and remember those we have lost to it. It's a chance to fight back against a disease that has impacted way too many lives."

JiUS' team "Live Work Give" continued their fundraising during the RFL event on June 15-16 by offering "JiUS Juice" for a donation. The 16-ounce orange juices were donated by Oakhurst Dairy and relabled by team members.

I recently caught up with Dawn Emery, Community Executive for the American Cancer Society, Inc., New England Division to talk about RFL and the effect it has had on cancer since its inception.

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How long has Relay for Life been going on?

Dawn Emery: In May 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, ultimately 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 RFL movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer. RFL events take place in nearly every community in New England.

Has RFL experienced growth since it started?

DE: RFL has truly become a world-wide movement. One in every 100 Americans participates in it. This was the seventh year that the Greater Portland Relay took place. The annual event is one of the most successful events in the state of Maine, raising $150,000 annually to support cancer research, educational efforts, and free programs and resources for cancer patients and their families.

What kind of impact does RFL have on the American Cancer Society?

DE: RFL is the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Without community support of RFL, the American Cancer Society would not be able to continue their good work to finish the fight against cancer.

What kinds of feedback have you gotten from the walkers and fundraisers that lets you know it's an important event?

DE: Relay presents a unique opportunity for families and friends affected by cancer to honor that journey, to remember those who have been lost, and to take meaningful action to fight back against a disease that has taken too much from too many lives. Relay is a family friendly, non-athletic event that embraces everyone in our community, and fights/supports all cancers. As much as RFL is a fundraising event, it is also a support network. As you take a lap around the track and see cancer survivors and caregivers of all ages and backgrounds, it's impossible to not feel as though you are part of something so much bigger than yourself.

As ACS celebrates 100 years, can you share some statistics on the Society's role in fighting the disease?

DE: Sure. Today, two out of three people diagnosed with cancer are surviving for at least five years and the goal is to change that to three out of three. The Society has contributed to a 20 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since the early 1990s, meaning that they helped save nearly 1.2 million lives during that time.

Each year, the Society helps cancer patients everywhere get the help they need when they need it. For example, last year alone we assisted more than a million people who called the Society's toll-free number for help, providing free services like a place to stay while traveling for treatment, rides to treatment, emotional support and much more.

Also, the Society's work has helped lead to a 50 percent drop in smoking since the 1960s, which has contributed to a drop in overall lung cancer death rates.

In closing, do you have anything else you'd like to add?

DE: Everyone has something to offer in the fight against cancer. It is because of the efforts of those who came before us, that two out of three people diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. will survive. If we all just did a little bit, we could finish the fight!

Relay for Life in Your Area

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Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing.