Three of Onondaga County's Relay for Life events will come together for Fight Cancer Fest CNY in May.
Fundraising for the American Cancer Society has always been a team effort. This year, that’s more true than ever, as three former Relay for Life groups are joining forces for a new event.
Three of the area’s longest-standing Relay for Life groups — Baldwinsville, Liverpool and Solvay-Geddes-Westvale — have come together to create Fight Cancer Fest CNY. Instead of the all-night walkathon for which Relay for Life is known, Fight Cancer Fest brings fundraising, family and friends together at the New York State Fairgrounds on May 5.
“Relay had been happening a long time in those communities, but they were seeing a decline. So we decided to try a new approach,” said ACS Community Development Manager Danielle LaTour. “They all had been coming to us and saying, ‘What can we do different this year?’”
With live entertainment and activities at Chevy Court — or the Horticulture Building, in case of rain — the new event has a “festival atmosphere,” LaTour said. Despite the new format, Fight Cancer Fest will retain “some elements of Relay that we didn’t want to give up.”
Like Relay for Life, the centerpiece of Fight Cancer Fest will be team fundraising. LaTour said some teams will even host their own activities within the larger festival.
For many teams, Relay for Life had become a tradition. That’s true for Anna Campanino and MaryAnn McCormick, cousins who started their family team “M.A.R.E.” with Baldwinsville Relay for Life about a decade ago.
Campanino encouraged McCormick to join her in the 2009 Baldwinsville Relay for Life event after McCormick had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year before.
“I had just finished treatment. I did the survivors’ walk. My hair hadn’t grown back yet,” McCormick told Eagle Newspapers in 2015. “It was the beginning of a beautiful thing.”
Over the years, the cousins have gathered an army of 50 family members for their team. At press time, “M.A.R.E.” was already leading other Fight Cancer Fest groups, having raised about $2,800.
“As much as we raise, I know I had a part in that. It’s going to a good cause — research and things that patients and survivors need,” Campanino said in 2015. “It is very heartwarming.”
Another element of Relay for Life that will carry over to Fight Cancer Fest is the recognition of survivors and remembrance of lives lost to cancer. In the past, Relay for Life participants lit luminaria (paper lanterns) in memory of those who have died of cancer, but the lanterns will be less visible at a daytime event. So, the planning committee is developing other tributes.
“There will be some kind of tribute that we do,” she said. “We do have some good things in the works.”
LaTour said in addition to welcoming past Relay for Life fundraisers, Fight Cancer Fest could attract new participants who shied away from the previous overnight events.
“We wanted to appeal to people’s schedules and we wanted to appeal to people who haven’t done Relay before,” she said. “It’s really a group of friends coming together and raising money for cancer.”
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.
Sep 19, 2018
Sep 19, 2018