Delaware Relay for Life
'Powerful' event raises thousands to fight cancer
When her friend's father died of prostate cancer seven years ago, Delaware resident Shelia Theisen found a way to provide support.
She teamed up with that friend, Bonita Baldwin, to raise funds to fight cancer as part of Delaware Relay for Life.
Now Theisen and Baldwin are co-chairwomen of the annual event, which officially kicked off this month.
The effort, which raises money for the American Cancer Society, is therapeutic for participants, Theisen said.
"We're fundraising to find a cure for cancer, but we also want to provide support for people who are currently affected by cancer or who have lost people to cancer," she said. "That's what we try to do."
Relay for Life participants will form teams to collect donations in the coming months, then come together June 14 at a local school -- this year's venue is yet to be determined -- for a night of food, music and inspirational speakers, while team members take turns walking or running on the school's track.
A ceremony at the event will honor local cancer survivors as well as loved ones who have died.
Teams can register at the website relayforlife.com.
Participants looking for support and fundraising ideas can attend monthly meetings at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of each month through May at the Delaware County chapter of the American Red Cross, 380 Hills-Miller Road.
Theisen said her team raises money each year by holding a garage sale, selling candy bars and planning a party for friends and family, asking the attendees to bring a small donation.
Friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates and church members often form teams, but teams can be as small as one person.
Dr. Erinn Nicley, who will serve as the event's public relations chairman, will raise funds this year to honor his father, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.
He said Relay for Life feels like a "second family" for anyone who has been affected by cancer.
"There's such a sense of camaraderie and solidarity among participants, and a feeling that everyone has a strong commitment to our goal," Nicley said. "It's a very powerful event."
This year, event organizers hope to raise $62,000, matching the overall donations from 2012.
The event's biggest fundraiser is Comics for a Cure, an annual stand-up comedy show to benefit Relay for Life. This year's show is set for Feb. 23 at the Strand Theatre, 28 E. Winter St. in downtown Delaware.
Residents who don't raise funds this spring are invited to attend the Relay event in June to participate in on-site fundraisers, listen to the speakers and witness ceremonies such as the Survivor's Lap, during which local cancer survivors walk a lap around the track to kick off the event.
The ceremony captures the spirit of Relay for Life, Theisen said.
"We're celebrating the fact that these people are surviving and fighting back," she said. "It shows families who are suffering that there is hope."