“Life is for living, not for cancer.”
When Anne Firth-Jones spoke to the crowd at this year’s Relay For Life, she wasn’t just addressing a crowd. She was speaking to her peers. The two-time cancer survivor spoke to a row of men and women wearing yellow shirts, all of whom have won, or are winning, their fight against cancer.
To date, the fundraising event has raised $101,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society this year, but Sherry Burnstad believes Hay River will hit the $110,000 mark.
Twenty-one teams were registered for the event, and two teams even came down from Fort Smith, bringing their spirit stick with them to symbolize the combined effort to find a cure for cancer.
After speeches were made and introductions completed, the survivors took to the track to do their victory lap. Following their lap, all the teams lined up with their banners to do a team march before the relay officially began.
Everyone on that track had a reason for participating, with some reasons hitting a little closer to home than others.
Elaine Bolt and her family were participating this year in memory of her husband who passed away from stomach cancer last May.
“It is something you think will never hit your family,” she said. “But it hits hard.”
Bolt said that Hay River has been a great place to be during her family’s time of grief due to the community’s support.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she said.
Bolt’s team, Nuts ‘N’ Bolts, had a bake sale set up during the relay to continue fundraising, and feed any hungry mouths participating.
Other tents were set up, some with raffle draws and silent auctions, and even one for the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.
There were several booths set up, each with information on a different aspect of health. One section was dedicated specifically to cancers, while others included mammography information and sign up, diabetes information and a blood pressure clinic. In a fun and educational manner, a Great Canadian Cancer Quiz was set up, so that each time a participant visited a booth, they received a sticker. Once all nine stickers were completed, the quiz could then be entered into a draw for a Sirius Satellite Radio, donated by Kingland Ford.
Through-out the night various activities were planned, including coconut dancers and aerobics workouts to help keep the group motivated.
The morning brought a pancake breakfast for all the participants and at 7 a.m. a final lap was completed by everyone still remaining on the track.
Despite not reaching the $170,000 goal as set by the Canadian Cancer Society, Burnstad is pleased with the support of the community.
“Communities in the North give. There’s no two ways about it,” she said. “Hay River is no exception.”