BY MICHELLE MILLER
The countdown is on; there are only 50 more days until this year’s local Relay for Life cancer fundraiser.
The annual event, which has taken place at the Westville Airport in the past several years, will be held at the Cooperstown Dreams Park. According to organizers, this was a committee decision made in order to give more visibility and accessibility to the event. The committee has also decided to change the name of the event from Cooperstown Relay for Life to Cooperstown/Northern Otsego County Relay for Life.
‘’It was perceived in past years that it was an event just for Cooperstown proper,’’ said Chairwoman Carla Eckler.
According to Eckler, the coverage area is large and positioned between two other relays _ the one held to the south in Oneonta and the Herkimer relay that is held in Ilion to the north.
This year’s festivities will kick off with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 21 and conclude with a closing ceremony at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 22. Teams of people will camp out and take turns walking around a track. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event.
According to organizers, because cancer never sleeps, relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length with entertainment and activities scheduled throughout the night.
The American Cancer Society Relay for Life gives people in more than 5,000 communities across the United States a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost and fight back against the disease.
The goal is to have 40 plus teams raising at least $90,000 this year, according to Eckler.
It is not too late to form a team no matter how big or small, said Eckler. A team captain’s meeting will be held at 6:45 on Monday, April 12 at the Cooperstown Elementary School. Those interested in getting more information can contact Eckler by calling 315-858-1451 or by e-mail at fredcarlaeckler@yahool.
com or can contact team captain liaison Pegg Bush at 433-0453.
According to the team page of History Alive û NYSHA and The Farmers’ Museum, fighting cancer is a team effort and the impact a team can make together is much greater than what any one person can do alone. Team member Meg Preston said on her personal fundraising page that Relay for Life has been an important event for her in the past because she has known friends and family who have battled cancer, or more recently for her, lost their lives to the disease.
‘’Last year my family and I participated in Relay in hopes of my brother-in-law Keith would be a survivor, however on his 49th birthday, July 21, 2009, he lost the battle,’’ wrote Preston.
Preston said while her brother-in-law was battling for his life, her father-in-law was diagnosed with prostate cancer. She said her fatherin- law had his prostate out a few days after Keith’s death and is now free and clear of cancer.
Phillip Andrews, who has raised more than $1,000 for Team Nicoletta’s, said the American Cancer Society Relay for Life is more than just an event for him.
‘’It is my personal opportunity to help saves lives from cancer,’’ he wrote on his personal fundraising page.
‘’It’s amazing to think that millions of people will be diagnosed with cancer each year. Somebody close to us may be one of them,’’ he added.
According to organizers, anyone can participate in Relay for Life. The only requirement is the $10 registration/commitment fee per person, which is due upon registration. It is recommended that each participant set a personal goal to raise $100, but it is not required.
There are about 30 teams signed up to participate in this year’s event. More than $112,000 has already been raised. Top teams as of Tuesday include The Bushwackers ($2,730), History Alive-NYSHA and the Farmers’ Museum ($1,329), Team Nicoletta’s ($1,276), Dancing Divas ($942) and Keepers Crew ($927).
Melissa Kowall, captain of team Bank of Cooperstown Pioneers, said this will mark her third year participating in Relay For Life and her first year with the Pioneers.
Kowall said her aunt had kidney cancer and died within a short time of finding out she had it. She said she has other family members who survived from cancer and others who did not survive the fight.
‘’Research has come so far and if I can do some small part to help find more cures then I am on board,’’ said Kowall. ‘’I want a healthy future for my children and grandchildren.’’
The Pioneers, which has been a team for three years, has 16 members consisting of bank employees and their family and friends, according to Knowall. Jessica Baker and Stacy Aldrich are co-captains of the team.
Baker said she has been participating in Relay for Life for about five years. She said in 2003, her stepmother died from cancer. Baker said she had several family members who have died from cancer or have been diagnosed with it.
‘’Knowing that there is a big chance of getting cancer myself, I want to help the fight,’’ said Baker.
Baker said she wants a cure to be found so that her daughter’s generation will not have to worry about cancer.
Aldrich said this year will mark her second year on the Pioneers. She said she has also participated in other activities throughout the years for the American Cancer Society, such as selling daffodils and carnations.
‘’I have known many people who have both lost and conquered their battle with cancer,’’ said Aldrich. ‘’I believe we can make a difference in anything we do to help with this cause.’’
Members of the Bank of Cooperstown Pioneers have planned several fundraisers in order to raise money for the cause. On April 2, the Easter Bunny will be at the bank to pose for pictures from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 1 to 3 p.m. A silent auction will take place at the bank on April 26-30 during business hours. The team has partnered with New York Pizzaria to host a pizza-eating contest at their Cooperstown location on May 1 at 1 p.m. There will be an entry fee of $25 with a grand prize of $100. The Pioneers are also selling fudge from the Tin Bin Alley from now until the relay event. For more information call, 547-2210.
According to Eckler, all teams will be selling tickets for a chance to win a Cub Cadet lawn and garden tractor that was donated by Springfield Tractor. Tickets are $5 each and the drawing will take pace at the relay event Friday evening on May 21.
‘’We want to encourage cancer survivors to come down for the first ceremonial lap and a complementary dinner,’’ said Eckler.
A registration form can be found at relayforlife.
org/CooperstownNY, under the tab ‘’Survivor Lap Sign Up Info,’’ that survivors can fill out and send in.
Eckler said she has set a goal to get the general public to come out to join the festivities.
‘’Most certainly, Relay for Life is about generating funds to find a cure for cancer and to provide patient services, but it is also about educating the public and spreading awareness,’’ said Eckler.
For more information on the Relay for Life event and the teams and individuals that are signed up to participate visit relayforlife.org/CooperstownNY.