A decision to cancel this year's Relay for Life in Tillsonburg was announced Thursday afternoon by the volunteer organizing committee.
The committee "felt that the event had 'run its course' and that it was time to dissolve the event," according to a media release from the Canadian Cancer Society.
"The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is disappointed to see the event fold and truly thanks the Tillsonburg community for its support over the past 15 years," it said in the media release. "During that time, over $2.5 million was raised to fund the best life-saving cancer research and support those living with cancer and their families in Tillsonburg and across Canada."
Changes in 2015 made it a one-day Saturday event from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. as committee chair Steve Kyle passed the baton to new co-chairs Julie Dawley and Devona Allin. It raised close to $98,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
More changes were made for Tillsonburg's 15th annual Relay in 2016, which raised more than $70,000, co-chaired by Jami Stephenson and Aleksandra Webber. The venue switched from Annandale Public School to Memorial Park near the Tillsonburg Community Centre, and it reverted back to Friday night, 6 p.m. - 12 a.m.
"Most of the committee had continued on from last year," said Janis Cunningham, Manager of the Oxford and Huron Perth Community Offices. "They polled the community... through talking with people, through talking with sponsors, various people in the community... and the response came back that the community was really feeling that it had run its course, so it was decided that they wouldn't run Relay for Life this year. I don't think it was the dollars ($70,000-plus) that was being looked at... more the decrease in participation at the event."
There were 121 registered participants last year, and she felt last year's venue change did not impact participation.
"It was a beautiful 'new' event location," said Cunningham.
Over the 15 years, thousands participated. From Survivor Laps to luminaries, guest speakers, live entertainment and just walking around the track - it was always an impactful night.
"We will keep moving in different directions and raising funds where we can," said Cunningham, noting the Great Ride 'n' Stride is coming up in April and that Canadian Cancer Society remains active in through its Oxford branch members, volunteers who support the cancer fight in Tillsonburg by organizing the annual Great Ride ‘n’ Stride, as well as other fundraising events such as the recent Clay Night. They also organize the sale of daffodil pins during Daffodil Month in April.
Great Ride 'n' Stride
The 48th annual Great Ride ‘n’ Stride will be held in Tillsonburg on Sunday, April 30 with registration at 1 p.m., and the opportunity to walk, run, or ride beginning at 2 p.m. from the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
Past Relay For Life supporters, volunteers, donors and sponsors are encouraged to join the spring event.
"It's in its 48th year, so it is definitely sustainable," said Cunningham.
Registration is available online at www.cancer.ca/greatride or at Coward’s Pharmacy (PharmaChoice). It is a family-friendly event and there is no registration fee.
Each year Bill Pratt raises approximately $3,000 for the Great Ride 'n' Stride, which last year surpassed its $10,000 goal.
“The Canadian Cancer Society has long been the top charitable sponsor of cancer research along with its education efforts to prevention cancer and in support of cancer patients," said Pratt. "It is run by volunteers. I plan to join again this year with the army of volunteers raising money to support the Society’s efforts.”
For those who want to continue with the Relay For Life experience, they are welcome to join the Woodstock event on June 9, 7 p.m. - 1 a.m., at College Avenue Secondary School. To register, go to www.relayforlife.ca/woodstock or call the Canadian Cancer Society at 1-877-577-7797.
"We certainly still want to carry on the great work that we do in funding the lifesaving cancer research, as well as supporting our people in our communities," said Cunningham.
Ingersoll also cancelled its community Relay for Life after the 2016 event, but the town's first high school event will be held this year, similar to the every-other-year elementary school Relay in Langton, which started in 2008 under the direction of now-retired Sacred Heart Catholic School teacher Pierre Chasse. Langton set a fundraising target of $4,000 the first year - and quadrupled it - and each successive Relay (2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016) surpassed $10,000.
"There are more and more youth events cropping up - it's a great way to build youth volunteerism and fundraising in either elementary schools or high schools," said Cunningham. "That is one of the real success stories right now, that more and more schools are taking on these events. Lots of fundraising going on there and great leadership skills being built at the same time."