Community urged to join together at Relay for Life on St. Croix


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ST. CROIX - The St. Croix chapter of the American Cancer Society is gearing up to put on its 2014 fundraiser and is looking for teams to sign up to make its 13th annual "Relay for Life" a huge success.

Planned for May 17 and 18, the hourslong event that will span over two days will take place on the track at Educational Complex with the theme "Fight to the Finish: All Ah We Ah One."

Relay for Life events on St. John and on St. Thomas are planned for later this year.

Donna Jones, American Cancer Society spokeswoman, said "Relay for Life" is the biggest annual fundraiser for the society, so they are really trying to rally lots of support from the community by way of sponsorship and individuals joining teams.

"It can only be a success if the community really supports the efforts in every way," she said. "Nobody knows just when they or somebody they know will need any of the services we provide or assist with, so it benefits everyone to help as long as they are able to."

For the event that is just less than a month away, Jones said a number of teams have signed up already, but it is not as many as the organization had been hoping for. However, it is not too late for those interested to get family or friends together to help raise awareness and funds for the society, she said.

Teams can comprise church members, sororities, fraternities, reunion classes, friends, families, co-workers, online groups, politicians, other non-profits or anyone else.

"This is an election year, and some aspiring candidates have signed up and we are hoping to see others," Jones said.

Teams that have signed up and those expected to do so during the next few weeks will participate in the 20-hour trek around the track, which symbolizes that cancer does not sleep and those who are fighting against it will do so without taking a break, she said.

Jones said this year the Relay for Life turns 13 years old in the territory, the local American Cancer Society turns 26 and the national organization will be celebrating its 101st year of service to people across the country and its territories.

The St. Croix event begins at 2 p.m. May 17 with registration of survivors and shirt distribution, which will be followed by the opening ceremony and a grand parade around the track with all of the teams at 4 p.m.

At 5 p.m. the survivors will take their lap, and the luminary ceremony, during which participants light candles and tiki torches in remembrance of those who have died and in honor of survivors, begins at 9 p.m.

The event wraps up at 10 a.m. May 18.

For the first time, Jones said the event will include the "Fight Back" ceremony, during which members of the community, possibly one person on each team, will make a public declaration of what they as an individual, organization or even company plans to do for the rest of the year to take an active stand against fighting cancer in the community.

Entertainment also is being organized for the entire event and will included live bands, DJs, dancers, mocko jumbies and more.

Jones said each team that signs up pays a $150 registration fee and is committed to raise at least $1,500 between its 15 members. "That's just $100 per person, so it is something that everyone can afford to be a part of and do their part to contribute to the cause," she said. "All members are asked to solicit from friends and family to increase their contributions and the overall success of the event."

In addition to the contributions from teams, the American Cancer Society will offer official Relay for Life T-shirts with donations of $10 or more.

She said everyone needs a T-shirt to enter the track, so while joining a team is encouraged, even people who are not a team member can be a part of the efforts,

Across the United States, "Relay for Life" is a fun-filled overnight event designed to celebrate survivors and raise money for research and programs. Teams pitch tents and decorate them, and they take turns walking or running laps at schools, fairgrounds or parks. Each team keeps at least one person on the track at all times.

On St. Croix, the Relay for Life has been at the Complex track since its inception.

Beginning as early as the day before the event starts, teams are eager to get on the track and start getting organized. Jones said teams should start thinking of decorations along the vein of this year's theme in hopes of winning the top prize.

Awards will be given for the team that has the best tent, the team that does the most laps and for other achievements.

"It is certainly not too late for teams to sign up," Jones said. "We hope that others will see the importance of the work the Cancer Society does in the community to assist cancer patients and get involved and be a part of this and any other fundraiser that we hold."

She said cancer survivors are reminded to RSVP for the dinner to ensure adequate preparations are made for the two dinner seatings that will be available at the Survivors' Banquet.

The next team meeting for the event is 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Curriculum Center, and Jones said teams that already have signed up or those wanting to be a part of the event can bring their registration fee and the funds toward their commitment fee that they have raised to date.

For more information, to register or to RSVP for the event on either island, contact Jones at 201-8264.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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