The Relay for Life starts with the Survivor's Lap.

The Relay for Life starts with the Survivor's Lap.

Why Prince Rupert relays – Show your support this Saturday

Over 200 will be taking the track this Saturday, participating in Prince Rupert's Relay for Life event.

Over 200 will be taking the track this Saturday, participating in Prince Rupert’s Relay for Life event.

Organizers have been pushing hard to make this year’s relay a success, and are thrilled to say there are nearly double the number of people participating this year compared to 2012.

Just under $68,000 was raised at Prince Rupert’s Relay for Life event last year, with 13 teams and 126 people participating.

As of Sunday, 24 teams and 214 people were registered to take part in this year’s relay.

At 10 a.m. on June 1, Prince Rupert’s relay will begin with Celebrate, the relay’s open ceremony, which honours cancer survivors and their caregivers. Michelle Taylor from the Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon Division said traditionally a survivor will share their story before survivors and their caregivers do a victory lap around the track.

“What’s neat is you’re able to distinguish who those survivors are because they’re wearing a yellow-colour relay shirt. We also invite the caregivers of the survivors because they’re equally as important in helping that survivor’s journey,” Taylor said.

“It’s a safe environment where the whole community has come together to show their support and to honour them [and let them know] we admire what you’ve gone through to still be with us today,” she said.

Cancer survivors and those currently taking on the disease are encouraged to participate in the Celebrate ceremony. Anyone interested in doing so is asked to contact Sheila Seidemann at (250) 627-1303.

After the first lap, all participants are asked to start their time on the track, and continue on for approximately 12 hours.

In that time, groups will entertain participants as they make their way around the field. Organizers are still calling out for additional entertainers, with anyone who is interested being encouraged to contact Aurora Martin at (250) 627-1303.

Relay for Life events also include a Fight Back ceremony, where participants commit to ways of fighting back against cancer, whether it be improvements to their health or ways to help others.

Throughout the day people can purchase luminaries for $5, which they can decorate in honour or memory of an individual with cancer.

The Remember ceremony sees the luminaries lit up and placed around the track at the last portion of the relay.

“It’s a really emotional time… It’s probably one of the most touching moments,” said Taylor.

Participants who raise $100 or more for the Canadian Cancer Society will be able to have their heads shaved at no cost, either to stand in solidarity with cancer victims by raising money and having their heads shaved, or to donate their hair for wigs.

Those donating their hair to make wigs for those battling cancer must have at least eight inch long, clean hair that hasn’t been treated with chemicals.

“An actual wig can take anywhere from eight to 15 of those eight-inch donations to make,” Taylor said.

At this point nine-year-old Darren Smith, a Grade 4 student at Lax Kxeen, is the only person signed up to have his head shaved. Although he will not be donating his hair, as it isn’t long enough, he will raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society, something he has done for a number of years now.

Smith has shaved his head at Prince Rupert’s Relay for Life events for the last four years now, originally doing it to win a bet.

Smith was walking around the track with his aunt, Laurie Cullen, who had beaten breast cancer a number of years prior. Smith noticed people getting their heads shaved and made a comment about how he’d like to do that. Cullen said she’d bet $100 he wouldn’t do it, so Smith gladly took up the opportunity to prove his aunt wrong.

“I was kind of scared that there would be a lot of pain,” Smith said.

Susan Paul, Smith’s mother and Cullen’s sister, said Cullen had a hard time when she lost her hair because of cancer, so she figured Smith wouldn’t want to shave off his hair even for $100.

“I didn’t think he would do it… because people are devastated when they have to get their heads shaved for cancer. But he went and did it, and after that I was thinking if he can do that he may as well collect money for it,” Susan Paul, Smith’s mother, said.

Smith has done just that each year since, collecting close to $500 last year alone. Paul estimates Smith has raised over $1,000 over the years.

“I’m very proud of him. I saw my sister go through [treatment], and how devastated she was to lose her hair,” Paul said.

Smith does a few laps at the Relay for Life each year, and helps cheer on his mother’s team, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

Organizers want to stress everyone can take part in the relay. Individuals who do not have a team, or have commitments that won’t allow them to participate all day have the option of registering for $20 and walking around the track for as long as they want to or can.

“It’s not just about being part of a team, it’s about coming down because it is a community event,” Taylor said.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Cancer Society, which Relay for Life events help support. The society uses funds for cancer research, providing information, programs and initiatives like Camp Good Times, and support through things like the newly opened Kordyban Lodge in Prince George.