In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt founded the first Relay For Life event in Washington. While each event may differ from state to state across the years, one thing remains common, the cause. Relay For Life events can last up to 24 hours, which many use to symbolize the treacherous around-the-clock battle of those who fight cancer each day. However, before the actual event itself, leading up to Relay – teams across the world fundraise all year to push forward the goal of finding a cure.
In McCracken County, Cindy Malray is the event lead for their chapter. Malray has been involved with Relay For Life for 28 years and still counting. She started out as a team member at her place of employment years ago. There wasn’t anyone in particular at first that inspired Malray to join Relay – the cause just called out to her to help.
“All of our survivors inspire me. They inspire me with their determination and constant fight,” said Malray. “The will to beat this ugly disease – that’s what inspires me.”
Cindy sees Relay as teamwork, no single person could, or wants to, fight for a cure alone.
“It’s the focus. It’s the will and wants to work together to find a cure, and to end cancer for all finally,” said Malray. “A cure. That’s the mission.”
Once COVID-19 hit our area, not only did businesses take a great decline, so did the volunteer outlets.
“The last two years have been hard. There has been no major fundraising or Relay event itself during that time,” said Malray. “Now? It seems we are to rebuild what we once had, and more, in the best way possible. We already have several fundraisers on our list and are currently working to set the dates.”
When asked what volunteering with Relay means, it all circles back to a cure.
“Compassion, support,” said Malray. “Towards not only the survivors, but towards our mission to help researchers find a cure. To beat this ugly disease.”
Volunteering with Relay is simple, and can fit into just about anyone’s schedule. This year, McCracken Relay will be taking a new approach to encourage volunteering.
“My goal is to ask those that would be interested in volunteering to find an event that is on our schedule and volunteer for that. I’m not asking everyone to commit to everything – though they can if they choose. But those who may be worried about commitment – all we’re asking is to pick one event of your choice and focus solely on that one event,” said Malray.
Cindy understands completely that everyone is constantly pulled in a different direction each day, but hopes that some will find the time to get involved with just one of their events to make it a big success.
“There are many ways to help if long events aren’t an option. You could make phone calls, go out and get auction items for the events, decorate for an event, or even pick up things donated for the event to run,” said Malray. “We aren’t forming teams this year, but making small steps towards rebuilding and that is our first step in doing so.”
Having community support for survivors and fighters, along with their families, helps acquire feedback and ideas for future events, such as the Survivors Dinner and Ceremony.
“We are currently in the process of finalizing the Survivors Dinner and Ceremony, and feel with community help we’re able to narrow down things that they want to be seen done at the event, the menu we serve – down to the music at the event,” said Malray. “We encourage the community to come to join us for the Medal and Luminary Ceremony this year. Seeing the community surrounding survivors, fighters, and families remember the ones we have lost in the battle – it’s so moving.”
No date is set in stone for the ceremony yet but can be found on their Facebook Page; Relay of McCracken County.
“Following our Facebook page will not only keep you updated on what’s coming next and where volunteers are needed, but is an amazing way to keep up with the Relay community in our area,” said Malray.
Participating in Relay For Life means you are able to become one of the vital parts of the American Cancer Society – a volunteer. Being a volunteer means you are one part of an organization of 2.5 million survivors, patients, advocates, volunteers, caregivers, and researchers doing everything in their power to find a cure for such a terrible disease.
“Relay has taught me many things throughout my years, but most importantly, it has shown me that tomorrow isn’t promised, so we must live each day to its fullest,” said Malray. “And to know when/if you go through this battle, you know there is always someone there by your side. Everyone pulls together and moves forward to get each other to the top of the hill. No one is alone in this fight.”
Though COVID-19 may have put a dent in volunteering, there are now more ways than ever for anyone, anywhere, to join the Relay community. You can join virtually or in person, and come together to connect, support, and fundraise to help save lives from cancer.
For more information about local relay chapters, visit Relay of McCracken County on Facebook. For more information on Relay for Life in general, or to find virtual volunteer options, you can visit www.cancer.org
Relay For Life is a movement, a community of like-minded survivors, caregivers, volunteers, and participants who believe that the future can be free from cancer and have a passion to save lives, celebrate lives, and fight for a world without the pain from cancer.
Join the Relay For Life of McCracken County for their kick off ceremony on Thursday, March 23rd at 5:30p at Texas Roadhouse