This year marks the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society, and the 28th year since one man walked and ran around a track for 24 hours to raise money to fight cancer.
That feat by Dr. Gordy Klatt, in Seattle, sparked a worldwide movement now known as Relay For Life. Locally, Relay For Life of Cherokee County has been active since the 1990s.
“Most participants are from Tahlequah, but we want to reach out to all of Cherokee County,” said LaDonna Coffield, 2014 event chair. “We are hoping to get more people involved from Peggs, Keys, Woodall, and other communities. Money raised here stays in Cherokee County.”
Coffield, a medical assistant at Urgent Care in Wagoner, has walked in Relay For Life for 15 years. Having two aunts, an uncle, and a grandfather diagnosed with cancer has been her motivation to volunteer her time.
She moved to Tahlequah two years ago and had difficult time finding out information about a local event. So she has stepped up to the plate; she was co-chair for 2013 and is the current event chair.
The Relay For Life of Cherokee County committee stays active almost year-round and is always looking for members and volunteers. Wrap-up for the 2013 event was in July; they had a float in the Cherokee National Holiday parade, and six members attended a conference in Oklahoma City last month.
The kickoff event for the 2014 relay will be Oct. 26 in Norris Park.
The committee receives support from the American Cancer Society office in Tulsa. Erin Cole is a community manager and the Cherokee County Relay partner. She assists the Cherokee County committee with developing and retaining teams, as well as seeking out business sponsors.
“I am excited to work with this team,” said Cole. “As an NSU alumni, I’m proud the event is a part of our town. It is a fun and exciting way to help find a cure for cancer.”
Funds raised by participants go toward more than just cancer research. Counseling, travel expenses, wigs, prosthetics, and more are made available to patients and their families. Since Jan. 1, 2013, 103 people in Cherokee County have been served.
“That compares to 88 patients in the fiscal year of 2012, so it’s encouraging that we are doing something right in getting the word out and making money available,” said Cole.
This year’s committee has a goal of raising $45,000. They want to have at least 21 teams register.
Last year, there were 92 registered cancer survivors in the Relay. Coffield says they are hoping to have 100 this year.
She also hopes more businesses and schools get involved and form teams. Teams can range from four to 30 people. Not everyone on a team has to stay for the entire event.
The 2014 Relay For Life, themed “Finish the Fight,” will be Friday, May 30 at the NSU track. Those wishing to participate, even if they don’t have a team, can register at www.relayforlife.org/cherokeecook.
The kick-off event, being held in Norris Park, is Halloween-themed. There will be a costume contest, door prizes and a disc jockey, and volunteers will be selling candy apples, hot chocolate, luminaria bags, and accepting donations.
Luminaria bags and candles are dedicated to those who have battled or are currently battling cancer during Relay For Life Luminaria ceremonies.
For more information on events or volunteering, contact LaDonna Coffield at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the event co-chair, Lynne Foreman, at lynneforeman79 @yahoo.com. The group also has a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Relay ForLifeCherokeeCook.