Student-led Relay for Life praised
Members of the Target Zone Dumbells team, Val Mounsteven, Dawna Peat and her husband, Jason Peat, were fuelling up in preparation for the 15th annual Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life in Ingersoll at IDCI on Friday. Target Zone was recognized with the Relay for Life Team Award during opening ceremonies on Friday for raising more than $50,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society over the past 12 years. JOHN TAPLEY/INGERSOLL TIMES
IDCI students took up the torch to run Ingersoll's 15th annual Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life on the sports track at the school on Friday.
Switching from being organized by the community to a student-led initiative, the event saw 17 teams – including 15 student groups and two from the community - participate, which was up about 10 from 2016.
Britany Fairbanks, an IDCI student who was one of the organizers of this year's relay, said she was very happy with the number of participants.
“Compared to the last couple of years, we've gone up, skyrocketed a little bit,” she said. “There's a lot more student involvement this year.”
Besides the change-up in who organized it, the event reverted from a shortened version to its original format with team members taking turns walking laps of the track from 7 p.m. on Friday to 7 a.m. on Saturday.
Fairbanks said that may be one of the reasons for the increase in participation.
“I think (the overnight format) interested the students a lot more,” she said, noting that students were also more targeted in promoting this year's event.
With the changes that have taken place, Fairbanks said there was no fundraising goal set this year.
“Next year I think we're going to have a goal to better what we reach this year,” she said.
Ingersoll's Relay for Life has raised $1.36 million for the Canadian Cancer Society over the past 14 years.
Ingersoll fitness business Target Zone – one of the two community groups that participated in this year's relay – was presented with a Relay for Life Team Award for raising more than $50,000 for the cause over the past 12 years.
Besides being relay participants, many students took time out to volunteer at the event.
Grade 12 student Jaden Juurlink was one of the volunteers, helping sell luminaries – white paper bags filled with sand and lit with a candle - in honour or in memory of people who have or had cancer.
She said she decided to pitch in because she wanted to help out the school's leadership class that was the core group of organizers.
Having never been to a relay before, Juurlink said she was excited and was particularly looking forward to seeing a couple of hundred luminaries lit around the track at dusk.
“I think it's going to be really beautiful.”
Mary Fitzmorris, an IDCI teacher who co-chaired the relay in Ingersoll for several years, said she was proud of what the students accomplished with their first effort.
“They've done a great job,” she said. “It's been a lot of hard work.”
Praise also came from Ingersoll Mayor Ted Comiskey.
“It takes the youth and the energy to step up to the plate,” he said. “It's nice to see that when something that has been so successful has a bit of a limp, the youth jump in.”
Marking three years being cancer free on Friday, four-year-old Leah Gardyne was among those who had one of her hands painted so she could press it on a wall of hope set up inside the track as a cource of inspiration and encouragement.
Relay participants heard the stories of two cancer survivors during the event's opening ceremonies.
IDCI teacher and breast cancer survivor Diana Haandrikman shared some of her experiences, noting that 20 years ago someone diagnosed with the type of cancer she had would have had a 20 per cent chance of surviving.
She said after being diagnosed there was a “whirlwind” of information from various sources about what to eat or drink or not to eat or drink and possible cures when fighting cancer and it can be overwhelming.
“Fortunately, the Canadian Cancer Society provides a wealth of information free for those who need it,” Haandrikman said.
She said progress has been made in fighting cancer and people diagnosed with the disease are living longer with a better quality of life.
“I hope for a day when we no longer need relays,” she said. “Because we have won the battle.”
Scott Murray, a long time football coach at IDCI, talked about the battle his son, Joey, successfully fought against leukemia.
“Childhood cancer sucks,” Murray. “Childhood cancer changes your entire life.”
Diagnosed in October, 2013, Joey was admitted to a London hospital and then began chemotherapy treatments.
His father said the disease and its treatment robbed his son of a lot of things, including something as simple as enjoying a bedtime snack, “but 1,200-plus days later, I get to stand here and introduce you to my hero who kicked cancer's butt.”
Having crossed the finish line in his caner treatment, Joey Murray is back to enjoying his childhood, including being Flash Light - the official mini-mascot of the London Lightning basketball team.
Scott Murray said as a football coach he has many memories of the IDCI sports field, “but at the top of the list is seeing Joey walk the survivor lap here the last three years.”
Keeping with tradition, the relay kicked off with cancer survivors walking the first lap around the track, and Joey Murray was right out front.