Relay For Life participants walked laps through the Oley Valley Fairgrounds to raise money and awareness for cancer research and support, much as they have been doing for 14 years.
Only this time, many of those in attendance had their furry friends in tow.
“The monies raised by our canine family members contribute to the good works of the American Cancer Society locally in our communities, which includes education, patient transportation and research,” said Penny Pierson, an organizer for Bark For Life.
“People and dogs are great partnerships, so give your canine partners a huge hug for all the joy they bring into your lives.”
Relay For Life raised more than $50,000 toward its $65,000 goal prior to Sunday’s celebration, which included prize raffles, concessions, vendors, a car show and a costume contest for pups.
The Relay and festivities were on hiatus last year due to the coronavirus.
“People who care about people”
Relay For Life participants such as Bob Olock form teams that seek donations from sponsors to support their walk to end cancer.
Olock noted that the Relay for Life has been doing strong for decades, and that 73 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to research, prevention, protection, education and patient support.
Olock, who’s also a cancer survivor and an event organizer, recalled his own diagnosis as well as those of friends and family members, and how that inspired him to get involved with Relay For Life — even if it meant bending the rules a bit.
“In 2005, I heard the words, ‘Mr. Olock, I’m sorry, but you have cancer,’” he said. “At the time, to form a team you had to have 10 members, so my first year it was me, four John Smiths and five John Does.
“We managed to raise $4,000 that first year, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Pierson got involved with Bark For Life one year after its founding in Pottstown in 2007. She’s seen the event evolve from a loosely organized fundraiser to a full-blown and widespread appreciation of dogs’ roles in cancer research and support of humans.
“Over the years, Bark For Life has grown into its own event under the Relay For Life banner and has spread across the country and across the globe,” Pierson said. “No small accomplishment for dog lovers everywhere.”
State Rep. David Maloney said the events demonstrated what can be accomplished “when we have people who care about people.”
“Especially when you see people who need rides or people who need a wig or whatever the scenario might be,” Maloney said. “For me, that’s what’s made a difference.
“Volunteers have made America. Without volunteers, we would not be the country that we are. Period.”
An important message
Since its inception in 1985, Relay For Life events have raised $6.5 billion for the American Cancer Society, Olock said.
But it’s much more than an important revenue stream for an organization that wants to eradicate cancer and support the people fighting it.
It also raises awareness.
Dee Mathis, an area director for the ACS, stressed the importance of getting regular screenings, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“How many of you have stayed up to date with your screens during this time,” Mathis asked a crowd. “The American Cancer Society is very concerned because we know early detection helps us beat this dreadful disease.
“What I want to encourage you to do is follow the guidelines, reach out to your doctor, stay safe and get your screenings because the worst thing to do is have yourself diagnosed in the late stage and not beat this battle that we see everyday.”
That, of course, is what events like Relay For Life and Bark For Life are all about.
“It is because of all of you that friends, family and those throughout the world will hopefully be able to ring the bell after their treatment and say, ‘I’m cancer free.’”
Source: Berkshire mont