by Alicia Wainwright
The 15th annual Lewiston Relay For Life is a few months down the road - Saturday, June 16, on the Lewiston-Porter High School track - but preparations are already in full swing.
Following the Feb. 11 kickoff at the Hard Rock Café in Niagara Falls, Relay organizers held their first Team Informational Meeting on Wednesday, March 21. A group of self-proclaimed "Relay-a-holics" filled the Lewiston-Porter School District boardroom on the Creek Road campus, anxious to get started. The focus of the meeting was fundraising.
Conversations centered on helping the teams think of creative ways to fundraise. The enthusiasm could be felt all around the room.
"I bleed purple," exclaimed Ona Sherman, a 14-year Relay organizer.
"This is a community-run, community-based fundraiser for the American Cancer Society," Sherman said.
The meeting, itself, kicked off with a short video, titled "Playing with a Purpose," which coincided with the fundraising theme of the night.
The meeting then split into three stations - on-site, off-site, and online fundraising. At the various stations, veteran Relayers provided visitors helpful tips and examples of successful fundraisers they could use along the Relay track.
For example, at the on-site station, "traveling tacos" were served. Traveling tacos are an interesting snack consisting of ground beef, lettuce, cheese and tomatoes, mixed together in a Fritos corn chip bag. The snack is not messy, quick to make, and is an easy way to raise money on the track the day of the Relay; might I add quite delicious, too!
Visitors heard a butterfly release is a beautiful way to fundraise on-site. One would be able to purchase a butterfly beforehand. At the opening ceremony all of the butterflies will be released. Organizers said the butterfly release is wonderful way to show support to someone you know who is battling cancer or to honor the memory of a loved one that has lost the fight with cancer.
At the off-site station, a group called Barney's Buddies' advice was to "come up with something gimmicky." They pointed out a boot drive in the village didn't catch the attention of many people until someone put on a Barney suit. Curious people would donate money to take pictures with Barney. Curiosity leads to donations, they said.
Plastic water bottles were available for team members to take and put at their place of business to collect spare change. One 16-ounce water bottle can hold about $100 in dimes. Don't underestimate the power of spare change.
"Shoot for the Cure," is an off-site skeet shoot fundraiser. A designated shooter will shoot at 100 targets. How much the shooter donates depends on how many shots he makes. For example, if 10 cents per target is donated, and the shooter makes all 100, then $10 is donated.
Tami Gabri, director of special events for the American Cancer Society, headed the online station. She went over how to enter cash donations on to one's personal Relay for Life Web page and tips for online fundraising.
"The easiest way to fundraise is to send out emails," Gabri said.
Sherman praised the Lewiston Relay For Life as a "grassroots event. This is about a community that is taking up the fight" against a terrible disease.
The next team informational meeting is April 25, again in the Lew-Port boardroom. At that session, Relay organizers will discuss where the money is going.