6-1-13 Relay CoverBy Jann Wiswall

Relay for Life is not just a one-day event. It is a months-long fundraising effort that began in February and goes all the way through August 1. And organizers still need your help in a big way to reach their 2013 goal of raising $53,000.

While the Saturday, June 1 event at the Ellicottville Central School track was a success by most standards, it was by no means the end of the campaign. To date, the 13 teams and 125 participants have raised nearly $33,000 — an average of more than $2,500 per team.

“These teams work incredibly hard and do everything they can to raise as much as they can,” said Relay for Life of Cattaraugus County committee chair Kate O’Stricker. But organizers are concerned that the goal may be out of reach this year.

The Relay for Life in Ellicottville event began more than a dozen years ago as the only such event in Cattaraugus County. Every year, the event grew in popularity and community involvement. Last year, 17 teams and 173 participants raised an impressive $48,000.

There seemed to be a hiccup in progress this year, however. Team leaders expressed concern about the lower-than-usual outpouring of support. Organizers acknowledged the problem too, and pointed to a few contributing factors that likely are in play.

According to Crystal Page, ACS’s director of special events for Cattaraugus County, two other local Relay Events are gaining in participation — in Springville and Olean — and both likely are pulling teams closer to those areas. Another factor could be “Relay Burnout,” which she says can happen sometimes with long-standing teams that may need to take a breather. For example, “one team wasn’t able to participate this year due to a family wedding scheduled for the day of the event,” she said. “They promise to be back next year.”

That said, however, O’Stricker points to the fact that there were five brand new teams at the Ellicottville Relay this year and all 13 participating teams are “fired up” for next year.

“Everyone is committed to making this event a success — every year,” she said.

If you weren’t able to attend this year’s main event, you can rest assured that the level of support among those who attended has not waned.

Participants listened to 2013 Honorary Cancer Survivor Priscilla Snider eloquently describe her journey from longtime Ellicottville Relay organizer and team leader to esophageal cancer patient (and still leader of the Holiday Valley Helpers team) — a story of strength and determination to fight.

They heard 2013 Honorary Caregiver Lori Carpenter talk of the loss of her daughter Chelsie, who succumbed to the disease at age 17 — a story of pain and love and support.

They watched the parade of dozens of purple T-shirt clad survivors, led by cancer survivor and retired Salamanca Police K-9 dog Robin, walk the first lap of the event — telling their stories simply by being there.

And they saw caregivers take their family members’ hands to walk the second lap — stories told by the love in their eyes.

These stories and experiences cannot fail to reinforce the importance of the event and its mission — to raise funds to support the important work of the American Cancer Society.

You can still help get the 2013 Relay for Life of Cattaraugus County to its $53,000 goal for the year. Simply visit www.relayforlife.org and search for “Ellicottville, NY.” You can donate online through any one of the 13 teams, or contact any team member (they’re listed on the website). Remember, donations count toward this year’s goal only until August 1.