The East Wake Relay for Life saw a modest crowd but heard no shortage of information at the official kickoff for the 2015 event on Thursday.
The announcement of a new fundraising opportunity and several changes to the Relay structure highlighted the event at Wendell Baptist Church. The meeting also featured an influential speech by longtime American Cancer Society volunteer Robert Schechner.
A new way to fundraise will come with the help of one of the Relay’s best friends – the Carolina Mudcats organization.
Relay leader Vickie Curtis said Relay teams will have the chance to pre-sell tickets to the Mudcats’ April 25 game against the Salem Red Sox and retain 50 percent of what they sell to benefit the Relay. The game, which falls two weeks before the May 8-9 Relay at Five County Stadium, will also feature a “Paint the Park Purple” theme and other promotional opportunities for the local fight against cancer, Curtis said.
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“There’s going to be some incentives, like the top fundraiser might get to throw out the first pitch,” Curtis said. “There’s just a number of things (the Mudcats) are willing to do.”
Also new this year, Curtis is no longer the lone event chair of the local Relay as she has been since 2010. She is now an event co-leader alongside Bobbi Jane Duke, a prominent team captain and fundraiser over the years, and Connie Gay, Curtis’ former co-chair and last year’s top individual fundraiser.
Each event leader will oversee a separate branch of the Relay effort. Duke will lead the “Bring the People” end, Gay will lead “Funding the Mission” and Curtis will be in charge of “Building the Fun.”
Curtis said more information will follow regarding the “Connect 4 a Cure” theme, a play on Relay’s mission in association with popular board games.
She also announced this year’s fundraising goal of $116,500. The East Wake Relay raised $116,063 in 2014, its largest haul in the past six years.
Schechner, 71, became involved with ACS in New Jersey in 2000 and chaired the Leesville/Brier Creek/Research Triangle Park Relay for Life dating back to 2010.
As someone who has participated in more than 30 Relays in six different communities, Schechner was right at home speaking about the importance of advocacy at the kickoff event. He told the group a single voice may be hard to hear but that many voices are hard to ignore, pointing to the smoke-free bill passed in 2009 as an example.
“Advocacy works, there’s no question about it,” said Schechner, a 2012 recipient of the ACS St. George National Award for outstanding service, the society’s top honor. “If you have one person raising money, you don’t get very far. If you have one person with a really big mouth standing outside yelling in Washington, you really don’t get very far. But if you have 10,000 people yelling, your thoughts will be heard.”
Schechner encouraged the crowd to become involved with the Cancer Action Network, the American Cancer Society’s advocacy affiliate for getting messages across to state lawmakers and beyond.
The East Wake Relay had 23 members join the Cancer Action Network last year.
“We can advocate for good public policy” Schechner said. “It is so terribly important that our voices travel to Washington, D.C. every year at budget time.”