Local Relay for Life changes its format, moving to August

By Correne Martin

Prairie du Chien’s Relay for Life is being revamped for 2014. The annual activities are moving from April to August, taking place outdoors again and being offered in a new one-day format. These changes are designed to help improve attendance this year and in future years.

The local Relay for Life of the Great River, which is associated with the ceremonial fundraising walk for the American Cancer Society, is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 2, rain or shine, on the Prairie du Chien High School track. Opening ceremonies will kick off the day at 11 a.m. This year’s theme for the family-friendly event is “Carnival for Hope.”

Relay Co-Chair Shelly Rider, who is assisted by Co-Chair Jackie Rymarz and Honorary Co-Chair Mary Ann Heisz this year, said the modified format has many potential advantages. Aside from the natural attraction of walking outdoors, holding the relay on a summer day will allow for youth, not in school, to join in the fun of the festivities or lend a hand behind the scenes. This will be particularly key to the “carnival” theme. Rider also pointed out that, when it was held outside years ago, the numbers of participants and survivors attending were much greater than they have been in recent years. This event has been held in Prairie du Chien for about 20 years.

“People wanted to get it back outside,” she said. “[The relay committee] felt it was also important to bring the kids back and shorten the day so everything isn’t so drawn out. People don’t have a lot of time on their hands these days, and we hope that, by having it on one day, we can boost our numbers again.”

Rider said the number of  survivors, which is of paramount importance to the event, dwindled to 21 last year, from 58 the year before that.

In 2013, the local Relay for Life registered 103 participants on about 12 teams. This year, 11 teams have already signed up and nearly $14,000 has been raised. The committee is optimistic other teams will come forward to register and fund raise. Teams of 1 to 101 may register at www.relayforlife.org/prairieduchienwi or by contacting ACS Staff Partner Carly Hodes at (608) 662-7550 or carly.hodes@cancer.org or Rider at (608) 412-0829. People may also join a team or sign up to walk the survivor lap.

An individual registration fee is just $10 (which is also different from the previous $150 per team). Cancer survivors not on a team may walk their lap for free.

Teams will be accepted up until the day of the relay; however, to meet the deadline for a T-shirt, teams are asked to register prior to Father’s Day weekend. Individuals raising $100 or more qualify for a free T-shirt. Teams of about 10 people that raise around $1,000 will get a T-shirt as well.

“The shirts add to the pride for those participating. We also encourage teams to carry a banner during the opening ceremonies and hang it on the fence during the event,” Rider noted.

There are currently six business sponsors for 2014. More are sought at this time. Financial sponsors may have a team participate in the relay as part of their package.

This year’s Relay for Life will start with the opening ceremonies at 11 a.m., followed by a survivor reception. Next on the agenda will be a caregiver ceremony, a sponsor ceremony and eventually the luminaria and closing ceremonies (which start at 9:30 p.m.). The night is expected to conclude around 10:30 or 11 p.m.

“We think it’s fitting for everyone to go home quietly in the twilight,” Rider said.

As assumed by the “Carnival for Hope” theme, there will be plenty of activities to enjoy throughout the day of celebration, remembrance and crusade against cancer. There will be live music, DJs, carnival inflatables, Minute to Win It games, kids dancers, a cake auction, a hot dog eating contest, a “Dude Looks Like a Lady” contest, and much more.

For more information about this year’s Relay for Life of the Great River, contact one of the representatives mentioned above or any of these committee members: Janet Mezera, Tom Hampton, Audra Atkinson, Rachel Pruett, Krista Zimmerman, Cassie Hubanks, Sarah Boxrucker, Sue Rider, Mary Mara and Cassandra Bramblett.

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