Rally boosts Relay for Life of Franklin County

  • Betina Christley, Bob Davidson and Chris Christion, members of the relay team Team Leftys, look over the questions in the Yankee Candle scavenger hunt. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Attendees designed luminaria to honor their friends and family members affected by cancer, during Relay For Life of Franklin County's first-ever fall rally at Yankee Candle. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • During Relay For Life of Franklin County's first-ever fall rally at Yankee Candle Saturday night, Michelle Doel presented organizers with a donation of $540, which she and the staff of Greenfield's Eye & LASIK Center worked to raise. From left to right: Relay For Life of Franklin County co-chairs Lisa McKenna and Liz Landry, Michelle Doel and American Cancer Society Staff Partner Andrew Paterno. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Relay For Life of Franklin County held its first-ever fall rally Saturday night at Yankee Candle in hopes of getting more community members involved in 2017’s cancer fundraiser. The event provided information about Relay For Life, the programs the American Cancer Society is able to fund using relay donations and ways to reduce one’s risk of cancer. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

For the Gazette
Published: 9/27/2016 3:11:28 AM

The first ever rally for the Relay For Life of Franklin County  attracted both seasoned relay veterans eager to start another year of fundraising and participants looking to get involved for the first time.

There, at Yankee Candle’s flagship store in Deerfield, some of the 723 walkers who did the 2016 relay were gearing up for the 2017 one.

“I think it’s a great thing to kick off the relay a little sooner,” said Kim Mckenzie, 38, of Greenfield. “It gets us all motivated.”

Saturday’s rally featured booths providing information about how to reduce the risk of cancer, the programs funded by the American Cancer Society using relay donations and the Franklin County relay itself.

“A lot of teams relay year-round, and we thought this would help teams that don’t do that get started earlier,” said Liz Landry, co-chairwoman of the Relay For Life of Franklin County’s planning committee. “It was a nice introduction, and it’s going to bring more people into our teams.”

Relay For Life is an international event in which participants take turns walking around a track to show support for those who have been affected by cancer and to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s life-saving cancer research and programs. Local relays are held in June at Look Memorial Park in Northampton and the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield.

As the 2017 relay fundraising season began on Sept. 1, relay participants have nine months until the next Relay For Life of Franklin County and nearly a full year in the 2017 fundraising season. Last year, the 723 participants raised more than $217,000.

Michelle Doel, 31, of Greenfield, attended the rally not only to present relay organizers with a donation from the Eye & LASIK Center of Greenfield staff but because she hopes to get involved in next year’s relay.

“It’s been a few years since we’ve had a team,” Doel said, remembering how Eye & LASIK Center staff used to participate regularly. “But there’s definitely interest there.”

Ann Hawkes, 74, of Conway, who is Mckenzie’s mother and has been participating in relays for 20 years, attended to reconnect with other participants.

“It makes for a nice gathering,” she said, adding that the social aspect is one of the things she appreciates most about Relay For Life events. “It’s a nice family. Once you get to see some of the people and get to know them, you’ll enjoy it.”

Hawkes and her husband are both cancer survivors, and many of her late team members have died from the disease, driving her to participate in Relay For Life year after year in hopes that a cure will one day be found.

“We do it for everybody,” Hawkes said. “There aren’t many people who haven’t been touched by cancer.”

“It’s really hard to walk away,” said Landry, who has participated in relays since 1999 and recently lost her sister Peggy Shaw to cancer. “You can write a check and that’s one thing, but you can give your time, and I feel like that’s from the heart.”

Lisa McKenna, the second co-chairwoman of the Relay For Life of Franklin County’s planning committee, said she would like to make the fall rally an annual event. The kickoff event for the 2017 Relay For Life will be held Jan. 21.


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