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'It celebrates life and survival': Newmarket’s Relay at Home supports survivors, funds cancer research

Residents are encouraged to run, walk, or exercise from home to raise money leading up to the Canadian Cancer Society's nationally broadcast virtual ceremony June 12

The Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is going virtual again this year.

The 17th annual Newmarket Relay for Life will be taking place Saturday, June 12, with participants encouraged to set their own pace and run, walk, or exercise from home.

Although this year’s event will be physically distanced, it will still include all the hallmark components of the in-person event, including an opening and closing ceremony, performances from renowned Canadian musicians, stories from survivors, and interactive activities like trivia and workout sessions. The event will be nationally broadcast June 12 from 8 to 9 p.m. EDT on Facebook, YouTube, and Yes TV.

Residents from Newmarket, Aurora, East Gwillimbury, and surrounding areas can sign up for the Relay for Life as an individual or team and donate in support online.

Organizers have set a fundraising goal of $26,000 in Newmarket.

“The Canadian Cancer Society has made the decision to have a virtual event again this year to continue protecting the well-being and safety of those living with cancer, participants, donors, et cetera,” said Madeleine Million-Osborne, community outreach volunteer with Relay for Life Newmarket.

Last year’s first-ever Relay at Home was a success, raising more than $4.5 million. The event featured performances from Brett Kissel, The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois, Virginia to Vegas, Joel Plaskett, and more, with approximately 4,200 Canadians tuning in nationwide.

Newmarket’s last in-person Relay for Life at Pickering College raised $68,445 in 2019.

“Last year was really just the broadcast,” said Million-Osborne. “This year, the broadcast will happen again, which will bring together folks across the country. But we also will be encouraging individual communities to participate as they would in the past, in a socially distanced way.”

Money raised through the Relay for Life will go toward funding ground-breaking research on how to prevent, diagnose, treat, and improve the quality of life for Canadians living with cancer. Roughly one in every two Canadians will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime.

The relay itself serves additional purposes, providing Canadians with the opportunity to support those living with cancer and remember the friends, family, and neighbours who were lost. Most importantly, the event links cancer fighters to vitally important support systems in their community.

Newmarket’s Lori Fitzgerald is one of those fighters. Diagnosed with cancer in 2007, Fitzgerald decided to participate in the Relay for Life for the first time shortly after her first round of chemotherapy.

Today, 14 years cancer-free, Fitzgerald will be completing her 13th Relay for Life.

“It’s been a really great experience,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s always very inspirational. It celebrates life and survival and fights for the people now living with cancer, because of all the funds that have been raised over the years.”

Four of the six members on Fitzgerald’s Sunset Beauties fundraising team are cancer survivors. For the past three years, the team has run to honour their longtime teammate and close friend Sarah, who passed away in 2017.

“We keep up the tradition for her,” said Fitzgerald. “We think of her and all the good memories we shared.”

Participants looking for a convenient way to track individual and team goals, distance, and fundraising can download the free Relay for Life mobile app. High school students who register and commit to raising $60 will be able to collect volunteer hours toward their graduation requirements.

“We’re asking all Newmarket residents to join us and help show people affected by cancer they don’t have to face cancer alone,” said Million-Osborne. “Sign up and walk with us this year to help spread our message of hope and prove that life is bigger than cancer.”