‘For me, it’s personal’: 26th annual ‘Carnival of Hope’ Relay for Life event slated for June 24 in Jawbone Park

BUCKHANNON – The organizers of the 2023 Upshur County Relay for Life event have adopted a carnival theme, and this year’s event will span four hours.

Upshur County Relay for Life chairperson Robin Oldaker attended the June 15 Upshur County Commission meeting to ask commissioners to proclaim June 18- 24 as Relay for Life Week.

The 26th annual event, which raises money locally for the American Cancer Society, is scheduled to take place from 6-10 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at Jawbone Park.

“We will be holding our 26th Upshur County Relay for Life on June 24; it started out as a 24-hour event and then went to 12, and now we’re doing four hours, but we’re accomplishing everything we need to accomplish,” Oldaker said. “Our theme is ‘Carnival of Hope,’ and it is from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and you’ll see the traditional carnival games, and you’ll also see us honoring and remembering our cancer victims.”

Pictured, from left, are commissioner Sam Nolte, commission president Kristie Tenney, Relay for Life chairperson Robin Oldaker and commissioner Doug Bush proclaiming June 18-24 as Relay for Life Week in Upshur County.

Oldaker said the United States branch of Relay for Life provided over $300 million dollars to cancer research last year.

“Not only does the money go towards research, but 73 cents of every dollar goes towards education, transportation, lodging, meals and retaining items after you’ve done your treatment like wigs and prosthesis, and it also pays for counseling services,” Oldaker said. “In the 1980s, the cancer survival rate was 49 percent, and in 2021, it was 68 percent.”

“I can’t say enough about early detection,” she added. “Sometimes I hear, ‘those tests are painful to me,’ but it’s nothing compared to the treatment and surgery you will have if you are diagnosed with cancer.”

Oldaker said since 1991, 3.8 million people have averted death due to early detection and treatments that have evolved over the years.

“This is a passion of mine; I’m not a paid spokesman for the American Cancer Association, and 99 percent of our Relay are volunteers,” Oldaker said. “We do have our supervisors, and they get us the signs and the materials we need, like our luminary bags, but our team members in Upshur County are volunteers.”

The Upshur County Relay group is still regrowing after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to alter their event.

“COVID wreaked havoc with us, and we modified the events because of COVID, and we’re slowly growing back,” Oldaker said. “We have added three new teams, which I’m very excited about. I get asked a lot of times, ‘Why did you do this?’ For me, it’s personal: I lost my dad, and I lost both of my in-laws to cancer. I am a breast cancer survivor, and I’m an ovarian cancer survivor. I never thought I would have to say I was a survivor, let alone two times.”

She recounted how different treatment is today.

“My diagnosis and treatments are so different than what it would have been just a few years ago,” Oldaker said. “I was told that ovarian cancer is usually not found until it’s at stage three or stage four, but because I was proactive and there were tests that could be done, mine was caught very early in stage one, and my breast cancer was stage zero.”

To donate or learn more about the June 24 Relay for Life event, please visit this site.

Thursday’s proclamation appears below in its entirety:

Whereas, the people of Upshur County have been affected by the devastating disease of cancer; and

Whereas, Relay For Life is the signature activity of the American Cancer Society; and

Whereas, Relay For Life of Upshur County is not just a fundraiser, it is a unique activity that offers an opportunity to participate in the fight against cancer, to honor cancer survivors and remembers those lost to the disease, to build a network of businesses and health organizations to address community cancer issues, and to recruit new volunteers to deliver American Cancer Society programs and services; and

Whereas, Relay For Life of Upshur County has had a significant presence in our community for the last 26 years, has touched thousands of our residents, and raised funds to further advance research and programs for cancer patients; and

Now therefore be it resolved, that we, the Commissioners of Upshur County, do hereby proclaim the week of June 18-24th in the year 2023 as Relay For Life Week in Upshur County and urge individuals, families, businesses, schools, service organizations, churches, and neighbors to unite in the fight against cancer, to honor cancer survivors, and to remember those we have lost to cancer.

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