Estevan’s annual fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society was down in numbers but still high in spirits and enthusiasm.
The Relay for Life, held over Saturday night until Sunday morning at the Civic Auditorium, saw 11 teams participate, with all but one raising more than $2,500. Local participants as a group brought in $60,758.
Patrick Fisher, event chair, said even though there were fewer teams, all entries were “dedicated and fantastic.” The total was short of their lofty goal, but Fisher said he was happy with the support they received this year.
“I’m very happy with the turnout,” he said. “Together we’ll continue to fight back so that one day, no one in Estevan will have to hear those dreadful words: you have cancer.”
Fisher added that it’s the individual efforts of local groups across the country that make Relay for Life the enormous fundraiser it is.
“The relay movement is only as strong as the individual events that make up this phenomenon we know as the Relay for Life.”
The night included plenty of entertainment, from musical performers and auctions, to a head shave.
Marilyn Coates, cancer survivor and honourary co-chair, preached the virtues of sunscreen to protect from harmful exposure to the sun.
“My message is to be diligent with sunscreen, and look after your children and grandchildren,” she told the crowd prior to the walk.
Coates was diagnosed with melanoma and noted that within a very short time, a mark on her neck grew. She didn’t think was something to be concerned with until the tests came back for Stage 4 melanoma.
She was among the roughly 50 survivors who attended the event, opening the evening’s activities with a lap of the Civic, each dressed in a yellow T-shirt, holding a rose.
“Use that sunscreen and enjoy this summer. I’ve been 12 years cancer-free. I was honoured to (act as honourary co-chair) this year. This is the first year I’ve ever taken part in Relay for Life.”
Brent Olfert represented Apex, the event sponsor. Olfert was diagnosed with cancer last year and is now a survivor himself.
“We saw it first hand last year, what it can be like when cancer hits a group,” he said. “Everybody was there to support us. We’re honoured to be here today to celebrate with all the survivors and honour the memory of those who lost their battle.”
Catherine Moore of the Canadian Cancer Society in Toronto noted the benefits of hosting the Relay for Life indoors. She said she was at a relay event a week before Estevan’s and disaster struck the event with wind and rain. They had to quickly move indoors to take shelter.
The local relay was moved into the Civic last year because of wet conditions, and Fisher said for the time being, that’s where it will stay.
“We’d already booked the Civic. After seeing the weather and seeing what had happened the last couple of days, I think this was the right decision. Some of them do want to get back outside, but for the time being it is a little easier to plan inside.”
He added that some relayers want to take the event back outside, but when bad weather hits, nobody likes being outside.
“When people plan to be outside, they picture a nice, warm, summery (day) but that’s not common in Saskatchewan.”