My experience with Relay For Life consisted of attending monthly meetings, gathering supplies for our specific task, planning (lots of planning), and actually executing the event. To start off, what is Relay For Life? Well, it is anywhere from 6-24 hours and is dedicated to raising money for cancer research. I have been involved in this wonderful event since I was 5, and have been on the committee that helps plan it for the last 3 years. I started at the Canal Winchester Relay For Life because my friend’s mom was the one who started the event at that location, and we wanted to support her and the cause. We instantly became very involved and would try to stay up for the entire 18 hours (which was the length of this particular event). There were games, theme laps, and music playing the whole time. To me this is really fun, but to others they hear “a cancer walk that is 18 hours long,” and they feel like it is exhausting. Well, yes, it is exhausting. But it is worth the sleep deprivation because it is a great cause and so much fun. Unfortunately that same mom who created the Canal Winchester event was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer and lost her battle in 2012. We were then determined to do more, and in June of 2014, we took on the role of running the concession stand at the Hilliard Relay For Life, which we had been participating in for 3 years. But this past year, I was curious about what actually happened at meetings that my mom was going to, and what it took to put an event of this kind together, which brings me to my purpose for this project.
The end of a Relay For Life donation period is August 31st, so committee meetings start up that September to begin planning for the next year. When the first meeting came around, I was a little nervous if I’m being honest. I already knew most of the committee members because of my mom, but I was the youngest one there and this was the first year we were merging communities and there would be unfamiliar faces. We got to the first meeting and I learned that events can be small cities, colleges, and even counties (like ours would be that year). I knew that the events were volunteer-oriented, but I never really thought that colleges would have the passion that these volunteers did. At each meeting, we would discuss what we achieved in the previous month (money raised, people/businesses we reached out to, etc.) and then moved on to how we were going to achieve new goals for that month. Sometimes they were pretty boring, but we got a lot done and talked through what needed to be communicated between committee members. One topic that had to be discussed - especially this year with the merge of communities- was the location of the event. After deciding what needed to be done, and where to hold the event, the harder part came: actually getting things done. You would be surprised how difficult it is to get a business to donate an item for a raffle, a gift card to raffle, or just money for them to become a sponsor; meaning their names would be displayed on the back of our Relay For Life shirts, a sign would be on the track at the event, and their business would be in the program that is given to all participants. Between meetings was when specific planning happened for our team. We were in charge of putting together the concession stand for the event, and that comes with a lot of organization and asking for food donations.
The next step in the event was to gather supplies for our concession stand. We were very lucky and received a generous donation of $200 to help fund our supplies which included food, beverages, paper products, etc. It was up to our team to decide what we would be selling and how much of those products to buy. On top of the $200 donation, we also got 20 pizzas donated from Jet's Pizza, which is a great seller at the event. Each team is in charge of taking on the role of one major aspect of the event, in our case, this was the concession stand. We have taken this role into our own hands for 3 years now and we have learned the ups and downs of what sells and what doesn’t. Over the last 3 years we have learned more about what should and shouldn’t be done, and we face new obstacles with every year.
One main challenge our team faced was the fact that the venue we had our event at did not have a building for a concession stand. This left us with the job of trying to find a tent big enough and some necessities that are normally supplied to us (a coffee maker, electrical outlets, running water, counter space). Electricity and running water were our biggest challenges, due to the fact that it was windy, 65 degrees, cloudy, and people wanted warm beverages that we could not supply easily. In order to get warm water, we had to run into the building, find a microwave, heat the water, and run the hot water back out to make hot chocolate, hoping that the water was still warm when we reached the tent. Overall, people were sympathetic of our situation, understanding our limitations and remained positive about it. Through all the challenges that came with the location, we still made a lot of money for our team, and our event surpassed its goal of $32,100 by almost $10,000 (our total was $42,034.54 as of September 18, 2017).
This experience gave me the opportunity to learn the logistics of planning a charity event, work with people I didn’t know, and most importantly, how to effectively work around substantial problems. Running into so many issues gave me the experience of learning from those obstacles and helped me to learn the right way to handle them. I definitely would say I benefited from this experience and without it I would not have learned skills that will help me in the future.