Youth Relay for Life a first in Saugeen Shores
by Tiffany Wilson

June 13, 2016

Health & Fitness

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"Live for Today - Hope for Tomorrow"

The 1st Saugeen Shores Relay for Life Youth event, led by a committee of Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) enthusiastic students, raised more than $14,000 to help local patients and their families living with cancer.

31 SDSS youth and staff advisor Mike Laing organized the 1st Youth Relay for Life in Saugeen Shores

Participants register

SDSS Gr. 11 student and lead Relay for Life Youth event committee member, Makayla Toye said when she heard that there was not going to be a community Relay for Life this year, she knew she had to take the initiative to organize one. 

Mikayla Toye thanks everyone for taking part

“It is such an important event so we asked the Canadian Cancer Society and talked about organizing a Relay for Life,” said Toye, who has previously been involved with the organization. “It ended up that the cancer society has been trying to launch their youth involvement so we decided to hold one at our school (SDSS) today (Thursday, June 2, 2016).” 

Relay Committee Member Melissa Bruce stands proudly with her mom and 13-year cancer survivor Bridget Bruce

The students kept those participating on their feet and active all evening long with activities including mini volleyball games, water balloon toss, a beach themed lap, a disco themed lap, a performance by the SDSS vocal class, a barbeque, a luminary ceremony, a raffle table and so much more! 

Cancer survivor Nancy Clark of Formosa with granddaughters Faith and Victoria Clark in the balloon frame by The Main Event of Port Elgin

Toye said she didn’t know what to expect because “we have never done this before, but I feel it was a really good turnout.” She said it is important to continue to raise funds because cancer is something she does not see going away anytime soon, “but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still fight and make a difference and raise money.” 

Staff advisor Dr. Michael Laing said he took the laissez-faire approach and was impressed with how well the students handled the stress. 

“It’s our first event and I think the students have done a fantastic job to really pull this off…. a lot has come together very quickly and they have done an amazing job keeping their stress levels down,” Laing continued, “but I think there are many improvements that we will and can make.”  

During the opening ceremonies, Matt O’Brien, a Canadian Cancer Society representative, stood proudly at the podium and thanked everyone for their participation and continued fundraising efforts, especially the survivors. 

Matt O'Brien

“Whether you are continuing your battle or have conquered your battle, we thank you, everyone here today thanks you. This day is for you. You are why we fight and you are our inspiration,” he said. “The impact that you are making by fundraising and participating in this event today is truly more than most of you will ever know."

"You dedicated your time to raising money for cancer research  and programs to support those people who have been diagnosed with cancer," O’Brien continued. "The money raised at SDSS today is priceless….and I cannot wait to see the Relay for Life Youth event develop here at SDSS in the future."

Cancer survivors on the track raised their hands in joy to the 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten

“We’ve survived another year!” said Verna Nelson. (L-R) eight -ear survivor Pat Love, six-year survivor John Doherty, survivor Nancy Clark, 30-year survivor Verna Nelson, 18-year survivor Janice Petherick and 15-year survivor Doug Nelson

Up next to speak was Sylvia Sheard, an 11-year breast cancer survivor, who shared her cancer story, while adding a few scary statistics including, "More than 500 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer everyday and everyday 200 die from it."   

“But there is good news, there really is,” she quickly added. “Survival rates are getting better and because of organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, there is research happening.”  

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Sheard said the hardest part of her cancer journey was losing her hair.  “It was the hardest thing I had to go through, but I ended up with two wigs and so I could either go out as a blonde or a redhead… life was interesting.”

She ended her story with encouraging words …. 

“This evening you are going on a journey around this track and you will, I’m sure, will go the distance as many cancer patients have done. On behalf of anyone who has been affected by cancer, I cannot tell you how much we appreciate you all organizing and participating in this Relay for Life. You are all an inspiration and give us all hope that one day there will be a world without cancer.” 

Survivors led the Relay ... "It's a Journey - Go the Distance"

... as family, friends and caregivers walked behind

Grade 12 student and Relay committee member Alyssa Malisani helps survivor Doug Nelson find a red bead

The committee also planned a few themed laps….this particular lap was disco! 

Later that evening, the 'Heroes for Hope' took place with Jen Smith and her three daughters, Maggie, Lanie and Beatrix having their hair cut or shaved by hairdresser Anna King of Beauty by the Beach, in honour of Jen’s mom. 

Hairdresser Anna King from Beauty by the Beach asked Lanie Smith and her mother Jen Smith how she would like her hair shaved and Lanie jokingly said ... a Mohawk

The youngest Smith, Beatrix, cut eight inches off of her hair ...

... along with sibling Maggie

The deal was, if Beatrix and Maggie could raise $1,000 or more, they would cut eight inches off of their hair and their sister Lanie and mother, Jen would shave their heads. That said, the Smith family raised a total of $2,165 for the Canadian Cancer Society Heroes for Hope campaign! 

Because her sisters raised more then $1,000 for Heroes for Hope, sister Lanie had to shave her head and she did just that! 

A proud moment ...

... and then it was mom's turn!

"It’s amazing to see our community come together like this,” concluded Toye. "Our Relay for Life will indeed save lives."

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Monday, June 13, 2016