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Relay for Life event planning under way, teams needed

PLATTSBURGH Celebrate. Remember. Fight back. Three simple actions remain the national focus of the American Cancer Societys Relay for Life campaign to fight cancer and the driving force behind efforts of people who participate locally in the event. Those words also sum up what Mark Brown and Kim Fulton, co-chairpersons of the Plattsburgh Relay for Life event, and the events hundreds of supporters strive to accomplish at each Relay for Life function. We want to celebrate the survivors. We want to remember those weve lost to this terrible disease and we want to fight back against it. We really want to take charge and get rid of it, Mr. Brown said during the 2008 campaign kick-off meeting at the Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County senior center Feb. 13. While the local Relay for Life walk isnt until June, planning by the events sub-committees is well under way. Fundraisers are being organized by participating teams to reach their respective goals, with ideas coming in many forms. Mr. Browns mother, Joan Brown, who serves as director of special events for the American Cancer Societys Eastern Division, mentioned several methods of raising money she has learned of from people participating in this years event. Theyre all part of what is called, making the ask. While some are comfortable asking for donations face to face, some find it easier to solicit donations through events like bake sales and raffles, she said. Some prefer to simply take out their Christmas card list and mail letters to their friends and family asking for donations. Another approach growing in popularity is asking by e-mail, she said. This year, Ms. Brown has arranged for teams to make money through the Vermont Teddy Bear Company in Shelburne, Vt. The company has set aside Wednesday, May 7, as a day where Ms. Brown and 24 others may work for the day stuffing teddy bears. The volunteers will earn $10 an hour, to be donated to Relay for Life. If more than 24 people show interest in participating, Ms. Brown said she may be able to arrange for additional shifts at night or on weekends. The money raised by Relay for Life participants benefits the community in various ways, said Ms. Brown. The acronym REAP, which stands for research, education, advocacy and patient services, explains the mission of Relay for Life. Research, education and patient services are factors which are self-explanatory, she said, while some ask what is the definition of advocacy. Advocacy helps us be aware, said Ms. Brown. We dont go out and lobby, but we do want the public to know what the people running for office stand for and who will help us raise money for cancer awareness. Funding for advocacy allows the organization to publish brochures about the candidates views on cancer awareness and what action they would take if elected. Last year, the Plattsburgh Relay for Life walk raised $158,000. This years goal of $155,000 is something Mr. Brown and Ms. Fulton feel they will have no problem shattering again with support from the community. An important tool Relay for Life organizers have made good use of in reaching that goal is their Web site, www.events.cancer.org/rflplattsburghny. Through the power of the Internet, said Ms. Brown, participants and donors alike are finding it easier than ever to make a contribution toward Relay for Life. Teams may be registered on-line and donations may be made to teams of ones choice, with everything documented on the Web site. Tallies are even kept at the right of the page, featuring the top teams and participants who have raised money boxes of results which change as donations are made. Its enough of an incentive to create a little friendly competition, said Ms. Brown. Since the Web site was set up two months ago by on-line committee chairperson Pat Gardner, more than 20 teams have registered, consisting of 75 participants raising more than $800. Thats a figure that puts the group ahead of where it was last year at this time, said Mr. Brown. On-line registration, and advanced registration in general, can benefit participants, said Ms. Brown. Those wishing to participate may register now for $10 per person. That amount, however, will increase to $20 May 30. Advanced registration, whether on-line or otherwise, alleviates the guesswork in determining the number of T-shirts to order for participants and the amount of other accommodations that will be needed. The Relay for Life walk will be held overnight Friday, June 13, through Saturday, June 14, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. An opening ceremony kicks off the event, followed by the Survivor Lap, with cancer survivors walking the first lap of the 12-hour event. Last year, 215 cancer survivors walked the Survivor Lap a number which is 37 percent more than the previous year and more than triple the amount in 2005. Wed like to see these numbers grow again, said Mr. Brown. In addition to being a physical activity to promote cancer awareness, the Relay for Life walk will serve as an educational event as well. Informational literature will be available to those attending the walk, with brochures on the various forms of cancer and steps people can take to limit the risk of contracting cancer. While some details of the June event are still to be determined, those of events leading up to the walk are already established. May Day will be celebrated May 1, as Relay for Life supporters paint the town purple. Individuals and businesses are encouraged to participate by decorating their homes and places of business in purple and to wear purple to show their support. The annual Relay for Life Garage Sale will be held at the senior center May 17 and will once again be hosted by the Treasure Chests, a breast cancer support group at the Fitzpatrick Cancer Center at CVPH Medical Center. In its first year in 2005, a modest $600 was raised. That number grew the following year to $1,700 and more than doubled last year to $3,800. Great strides such as that give everyone involved a reason to celebrate, said Ms. Brown, circling back to the mission of Relay for Life. Were going to celebrate, were going to remember and were going to continue to fight back until we dont have to do this relay anymore, said Ms. Brown. In addition to Ms. Gardner, committee chairpersons this year are as follows: Julie Liberty, survivor committee; Marie Guay, team captain committee; Julie Stalker and Stacey LaFave, education committee; Tammy Lashway, entertainment committee; Libby Goller, garage sale committee; Kathy Young, luminaria committee; and Cliff Sterling, logistics committee. For more information about Relay for Life, contact Mr. Brown at 314-1404, Ms. Fulton at 593-7327, or visit the Plattsburgh Relay for Life Web site.

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