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Luminarias light the pathway through Jawbone Park Saturday, Aug. 14 at Upshur County Relay for Life's annual fundraising event. / Photo courtesy Robin Oldaker

Upshur Relay for Life fundraising total tops 2020 edition as community honors cancer survivors

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Relay for Life raised around $27,000 during their annual event Aug. 14, topping their fundraising total in 2020.

Robin Oldaker, chair for the Upshur County Relay for Life, said they were able to raise more funds and sell more luminaries than last year for this year’s annual event, the theme of which was ‘Lasso A Cure.’ Relay for Life took place Saturday evening at Jawbone Park.

“This was so much better,” Oldaker said Monday. “We recognized survivors Saturday night, and then we had a person sing (Donna Foster), and then we had the luminary service. I would say there were probably between 50 and 70 people at the ceremony, but we had close to 200 luminaries purchased, which was far above last year and the money raised this year is much higher than last year.”

She said raising money has been difficult because of the pandemic.

“COVID has made it hard to raise funds, but the teams have come up with some inventive ways to raise money, and we’re actually still going to have an online silent auction because we had some wonderful donations,” Oldaker said. “We’re going to be setting up a Facebook site to do the online auction here within the next couple of days, so people should check the Upshur County Relay for Life page for that.”

Photo courtesy Robin Oldaker

Money raised by Upshur County Relay for Life funds cancer treatment, cure and prevention-related research through the American Cancer Society and helping patients cope with their diagnosis, treatment and challenges of daily living.

“Money raised goes towards cancer research, but it also goes towards helping families that need transportation to appointments,” Oldaker said. “It helps with hotel stays, it helps with equipment-type things. Since I’m a breast cancer survivor, I know that it helps with wigs and that type of thing for breast cancer patients. A small part of it does go to the clerical work of those that run the American Cancer Society, but the vast majority of it does go to cancer research and helping cancer patients.”

She said cancer patients are having a particularly hard time during the pandemic.

“We had a survivor speak at Relay, and she has recently just had kidney cancer and they removed a kidney, and she actually had to go to all her doctor’s appointments alone and everything because of COVID,” Oldaker said. “It was very unsettling. A lot of times, the insurance does cover things but there’s a lot that insurance does not cover.”

Upshur County Relay for Life shortened its event in the week leading up to Relay as COVID-19 cases began to climb in the county.

“This decision was made with input from Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, the American Cancer Society and our local Upshur County Relay for Life Committee,” Oldaker had stated in the release. “We believe that this is the safest decision for all to be able to have a modified event and still honor those fighting cancer and remember those who lost the battle with cancer.”

Saturday’s event took place in Jawbone Park, with cancer survivors registering between 8-9 p.m. At 9 p.m., Tina Eddy, a cancer survivor, shared her story, music was provided, and a luminaria ceremony wrapped up the evening.

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