Volunteers step up to save local Relay For Life

A handful of volunteers are breathing new life into Marion County?s Relay for Life event set for Aug. 24, but help is still needed in filling other key positions.

Melissa Easterberg, community manager with the American Cancer Society in Wichita, said she was happy with the turnout at a recent meeting that was the linchpin as to whether Marion County would continue having the event.

?I was also pleased with those who stepped up (and volunteered),? she said.

Of the 11 people who attended, Easterberg said a majority of them signed up for a committee and voted on this year?s date and location.

?It was a matter of leaving the event inside (at the Marion Sports and Aquatic Center) or taking it back outside to a track either in Hillsboro or Marion,? she said.

Volunteers noted that tight turnaround with less than two months to go, and Easterberg said nobody wanted to recreate the wheel.

People who want a different venue for the event need to give the committee members their feedback, she said.

Now in its 19th year, the local Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society, is gradually decreasing in teams, donations and volunteerism, Easterberg said.

?This is my eighth season on staff and before coming on (as community manager), I was a seven-year volunteer,? she said.

?In the last two years, it has gotten to the point nobody is interested, and that is why if I didn?t see any enthusiasm (at the meeting), we weren?t going to be able to have it.?

Positions available

Four positions remain vacant: the event chair, event co-chair, survivor chair and team coordinator/team recruiter.

Last year, Easterberg said there was only a sponsorship chair, accounting chair, herself and a group of FCCLA students from Marion High School helping with entertainment.

?We needed to have the event at a location with the least amount of work for everyone?and then it poured that day so we were glad to be inside,? she said.

Easterberg said she believes Marion County?s Relay for Life is in much better shape this year, and if all the positions are filled it will make the event much easier.

?The event chair and co-chair could share (the job) and after the current chair?s reign is over, the co-chair could take over,? she said.

According to Easterberg, the event chair is responsible for recruiting, orienting and training a team of volunteers that plans and implements all aspects of the event.

The survivor chair is asked to make sure all cancer survivors are invited to participate in the Survivor Celebration and have the opportunity to participate in other ACS initiatives during the year.

In addition, the survivor chair would also coordinate the dinner prior to the event for cancer survivors.

A team coordinator/team recruiter works with the team development chair and event chair to set team recruitment goals and make plans to reach them.

?New Relay for Life teams are crucial to an event?s success and growth,? Easterberg said. ?We do need to get these positions filled. It ensures the future of this event, and once filled hopefully (volunteers) will stay on for the next year so we can get started much earlier than July.?

Current committee members include Sherry Soyez, accounting chair; Donna Alcorn, survivor sub-committee; Sherry Buller and Tammy Shaw, luminaria co-chairs; Luanne Soukup, sponsorship chair; Joel Klaassen, online chair and help with publicity; Ashley Hoffman, entertainment and activities chair; Diana Howell, entertainment and activities sub-committee; and Myrta Billings, youth committee.

Event history

Marion County Relay for Life events from 2005 through 2012 raised a net total of $233,508 in the fight against cancer, Easterberg said.

During that same time, 547 participants were on 131 teams with 203 cancer survivors attending and 213 caregivers.

?Last year, nine teams registered for the event with the goal this year to have at least 12 teams,? she said.

?All teams and participants need to be registered by July 30 for T-shirt orders,? Easterberg said. ?Team members are no longer limited to just 15 people per team, but instead can register five people or 505 people on a team.

Easterberg said she is excited to know Marion County is having its event from 6 p.m. to midnight on Aug. 24 after such a slow start.

?We started sending letters out in January, and with no response, I didn?t have much hope an event would happen, but sometimes it takes a little push,? she said.

Anyone interested in filling a vacant position can call her at 316-616-6503 or e-mail: melissa.easterberg@cancer.org.

Those interested in forming a team are asked to register at relayforlife.org/marioncoks.

The next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. July 30 at the Marion Sports and Aquatic Center.

Written By
More from Patty Decker
Mueller leaves a strong legacy for county board
Some of the most important people in any community are those who...
Read More