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Relay for Life going virtual for 20th year of cancer fight

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Troy Shantz

While participants circle the grounds at Clearwater Arena a bagpiper’s song cuts through the summer air as candles are lit for cancer survivors and fighters.

“It’s very emotional,” Relay for Life participant Monica Laird said of the Luminary Lap, her favourite part of the night honouring those impacted by cancer.

Normally, Relay for Life sees team members take turns walking a track for six to 12 hours to raise money for research and support those already diagnosed.

But on this, the 20th anniversary year, the Relay is going virtual on Saturday, June 12.

Thousands of participants locally and across Canada are already busy raising money leading up to the big day, using step challenges and other creative means, said event spokesperson Melissa Schilz.

And the June 12 virtual event will still feature an opening ceremony, inspiring stories and Luminary Lap live-streamed on the Canadian Cancer Society’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

Monica Laird said she and other participants plan to place candles outside of their homes that night as well.

Laird, who lost her parents to cancer and is a survivor herself, has been involved one way or another since it began in Sarnia 20 years ago.

“I just told my family I’ll always do this, as long as they have it,” she said, noting many of her “Murphy Clan” teammates return year after year.

“Whoever wants to participate can participate.”

The local Relay has been a major funder of cancer research and awareness, but is smaller now than it once was. Laird believes that’s due in part to the growing number of causes people can support these days.

“The reason I continue to Relay is so other children don’t have to grow up without a mother,” she said.

Step challenges are done using a fitness app that counts the participant’s steps toward various distance challenges, gathered on the Canadian Cancer Society app.

Others are organizing virtual bake sales, clothing drives, and at least one lemonade stand, Schilz said.

Last year $55,000 was raised. This year’s goal is $58,000.

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