GREENVILLE — Each year brings another birthday and each birthday marks another year of surviving cancer.
That’s the idea behind Relay for Life — counting birthdays.
“It’s all about celebrating another year. Not only celebrating your birthday but celebrating another year alive,” said Angie Bratty, retention manager with Relay for Life of Montcalm County. “We really like to highlight our survivors. Our numbers grow every year. We like them to come and we like to honor them and make them feel special.”
As teams make laps around the Greenville High School track for the relay, they represent a friend or a family member diagnosed with cancer.
This year’s event, scheduled for June 13-14, will have an estimated 30 teams. The goal of funds to be raised at this year’s event is $100,000.
With each year a different theme for the relay, organizers this year wanted something that symbolized a celebration. Teams this year will each represent a holiday.
“So everyone has a holiday to celebrate, just like we celebrate our survivors,” said Gabrielle Likavec, publicity coordinator for Relay for Life.
Likavec, who just moved to Montcalm County from West Branch, has, along with her 7-year-old son Joey, been involved with Relay for several years. It all started when, at 4 years old, Joey found out his grandfather, David, was a cancer survivor. After learning about Relay for Life, Joey told his mother he wanted to start a team in honor of his grandfather.
At 5 years old, Joey served as team captain for his first Relay for Life held near the Likavec’s hometown in West Branch. The team raised around $2,000 that year.
“Here I was thinking I was going to teach him something while running the team, but instead mom learned a lesson in helping others,” Likavec said.
When the family moved to Montcalm County recently, Relay was on Joey’s mind.
“The first thing he said when we moved here is, ‘We need to find the Relay people,’” his mother said.
The two have had a team each year and Likavec said Relay has become a part of their lives. She said seeing the effect the organization has on cancer survivors is inspiring.
“They help with research, but they also provide assistant on a daily basis,” she said. “I’ve talked with so many patients who have had connections with Relay they said made the difference between giving up and not giving up.”
As part of Relay, team members will continuously walk around the track for 24 hours from 10 a.m. June 13 to 10 a.m. June 14.
“We have a few walkers who will walk 12 hours, and even a few who will try to walk all 24 hours but most people Relay with their team,” Likavec said.
For more information or to sign up for the event, visit Relay for Life of Montcalm County on Facebook or at www.relayforlife.org online.
Anyone is welcome to attend the event and it is not necessary to be part of a team to raise money for Relay.
“Everyone is welcome and the ceremonies, particularly the luminaria ceremony, are incredibly moving,” Likavec said.