This year’s Relay for Life returned to the middle school last weekend to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Although the number of teams and participants increased from 2014, the community relationship manager for the Great West Division of the American Cancer Society said the Fallon event is making a slow comeback.
“There are more people here,” said Erin Entwistle on Saturday as the local Relay for Life was winding down. “We’re at a good point, and we have a good foundation for next year.”
Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s annual fight against cancer. Participants remember those who died from cancer and honor those who have fought the disease and won. More than 4 million people in more than 20 countries raise funds and awareness for the war against cancer, according to relayforlife.org.
The 2014 Relay for Life had to move from the middle school track to the high school because of construction; additionally, the annual fundraiser was held the same weekend when many sesquicentennial events celebrating Nevada’s birthday were held in Fallon.
Entwistle feels Fallon’s Relay for Life returned the fun to the two-day event that began Friday night and concluded early Saturday afternoon.
“The committee saw a gap and wanted to fill it. They wanted to bring the fun back to Relay,” she said.
The committee, which consisted of many new faces, came up with a “redneck” theme, and many of the special laps or activities at the various teams’ tents showed off their creativity to support the theme. Entwistle said many participants wanted a fun factor, and the redneck theme delivered.
Many Relay for Life communities in Northern Nevada, said Entwistle, have endured a downturn during the past three to four years. Fallon has been no exception. She said donations are down and volunteer help has dropped.
“For one, a lot of people are unsure what will happen (with the economy),” she said. “And we’re such a busy society. It’s hard to find dedicated volunteers. I see it with the teams, too.”
Although this year’s goal has fallen short of $30,000, Entwistle said donations are still being accepted until the end of August, the final month of the Relay for Life fundraising calendar.
Brandee McCoy, one of the committee members, said teams have already signed up for 2016, and she has receive interest from people wanting to help next year.
McCoy, who has been involved with Relay for Life in many capacities for 14 years, said she felt good seeing the teams and individuals having fun with this year’s theme.
Yet, the work will begin soon to focus on the 2016 Rely for Life.
“We will try to get teams back who did not participate,” she said.
McCoy added she was happy with the increased number of cancer victims who survived the disease and participated in the evening’s first lap at the middle school.
“It was very good to come back to the middle school,” she said. “I like being back on Taylor Street. We have a little more leeway here.”
Beginning in a few months, McCoy said the committee will focus on the teams, holiday fundraising events and adding events.
“It’ almost a yearlong process,” she said, referring to the group’s fundraising. “I also want to thank our sponsors. Thanking them is important.”
She also thanked the city of Fallon and Churchill County Parks and Recreation for their behind-the-scenes support in setting up chairs, the survivors’ tent and electricity.
Before the event ended on Saturday, McCoy said she and the committee also received ideas to improve next year’s Relay for Life.
Another committee member, Tammy Christiano-Budell, said more people walked the track at night than last year. Although the event took small steps to improve, she said scheduling was important.
Relay for Life was set on a non-racing weekend at both Top Gun and Rattlesnake raceways; additionally, she said the event began on Friday as not to interfere with the city’s Live Local Fallon barbecue or Saturday’s concert-in-the-park.
“We also started later, so people could go home from work, shower and come back. It wasn’t as hot,” she said.
Christiano-Budell said the committee has many ideas for next year.
“We need to get the word out for next year,” she aid. “I am very happy with the way it turned out (this year.)”
In addition to the fundraising activities, Dr. Lisa Rassmussen, a general surgeon at Banner Churchill Community Hospital, has a special interest in cancer, spoke to the Relay for Life teams on cancer and prevention.
Rasmussen said it is important for women 40 years and older to have a mammogram to screen for cancer. Later this year, she said Banner Churchill will obtain a 3D mammogram machine that will produce more defined images.
She also had advice for men and women on colon cancer.
“I’m spending time in the community telling people how to screen for colon cancer. You need to start at age 50,” she said.
Rasmussen said a colonoscopy is the gold standard for colon-cancer screening. For example, she said 25 percent of men who have a colonoscopy will need small, precancerous polyps removed.
During March, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Rasmussen said doctors advise people to test for colon and rectal cancer. This year, though, from March through the end of May, she said the number of people receiving tests doubled.
Checking the prostate for cancer, which is a leading cause of death in men, is easy. She said a simple blood test could detect any abnormality.
Rasmussen said the most common cancers affecting men are lung, colon and prostate, while women are more susceptible to breast, lung and colon.