BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Relay for Life hopes to raise $30,000 during their upcoming event in July.
Robin Oldaker, the chairperson for Upshur County Relay for Life, attended the June 23 Upshur County Commission meeting to proclaim the month of July as Relay for Life Month.
“I want to thank you for this opportunity. Twenty-five years ago, the first Relay for Life event was held in Upshur County, and it started with a few compassionate people and has grown to encompass many more,” Oldaker said. “It was first held at the high school, then at the middle school, and now it is being held at Jawbone Park.”
Oldaker explained how Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society is funding critical medical research that is prolonging survivors’ lives.
“There are a lot of naysayers that say, ‘you’ve been doing it for 25 years, but cancer is still here,’ which is a true statement, but since the early ’90s, there have been 1.5 million cancer survivors and two out of three people are living five or more years,” she added, “and when you reach that five-year point, and it hasn’t reoccurred, your chances for cancer coming back is almost 0 percent, so we’re striving instead of two out of three, to make it three out of three that will survive.”
For every dollar raised through Relay for Life events, 73 cents go toward funding research, prevention, detection, education and patient support, Oldaker said.
“I don’t know whether people are aware but through the patient support, the American Cancer Society will pay for travel for patients, lodging, they were paying for prosthesis and those going through chemo that will supply wigs or turbans or whatever needed,” she said.
The other 27 cents goes toward administrative costs and the support system.
“Early detection is such a vital point against cancer and in cancer cures, right now detection is at stage zero, which is what I was, so the outlook for full recovery is so much better,” Oldaker said. “New, non-invasive treatments are being created and life expectancy is now years instead of months, and if you’ve had anyone who has been a cancer patient many, many years ago, cancer was a death sentence — you just didn’t make it because we didn’t have the advancement.”
She said operating in Upshur County has been a blessing because the community is so supportive.
“We’ve raised over $2.2 million in 25 years and for this small community, that is amazing,” Oldaker said. “The past two years have been rough and in 2020 we just had a drive-through luminary service and last year in 2021, COVID reared its ugly head again and we had to scale it down just weeks before the event, but even through that, with limited fundraising, last year we raised $23,000, which amazes me.”
They have been able to fundraise before the 2022 event and businesses have sponsored the event.
“We are thankful for all the businesses who have sponsorships and all the individuals; this year our goal is $30,000 and I know we are going to meet and exceed that goal because we have a pretty good start,” Oldaker said. “Businesses are coming back out for sponsorships, we’ve been able to do some fundraising, so we are so excited to have a quote-unquote ‘normal’ relay event this year.”
The event has changed throughout the years, transitioning from a 12-hour event to 10 hours, then eight and this year it will last for four hours.
“We’re still having everything, we’re still going to honor our survivors, we’re still going to revere those who have gone on, we’re going to honor the caregivers, and I think the most touching event is the luminary service,” Oldaker said.
The 2022 event will take place at Jawbone Park on July 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.