by Larry Austin
Changes are in store for the 2013 Grand Island Relay For Life, but two things remain constants: getting in touch with survivors, and developing new teams and volunteers for committees.
The 2013 Relay will take place overnight June 8 and 9, 2013, beginning at 2 p.m. The Relay will move for the first time away from Masters Field at Grand Island High School because of impending construction due to the district's ongoing capital improvement project.
Because of changes in the decade-old event, co-chairs Becky Stufkosky and Lynn Dingey said the GI Relay planners have re-doubled their efforts to look for new teams, committee members and survivors.
"We're trying to bring new people on, and there are so many survivors that we don't know about," Stufkosky said.
Survivors who want to take part in the event can contact John Thurnherr, who is working on survivor recruitment, at 716-775-5212.
"You're a survivor the minute you're diagnosed," Dingey noted.
John's wife, Rita, started working this week on approaching Island businesses and organizations to help start new teams. "She's already got one new team," said Dingey. Prospective teams can contact her at 716-775-5212.
The Grand Island Relay has 15 different subcommittees, providing volunteers an avenue to support the effort in "whatever might interest them," Dingey said. "We kind of leave it to whatever they want to do."
"If somebody wants to work with survivors, they can work with survivors. If somebody wants to work with teams, there is that option. If somebody wants to take on luminaries, they can work with that," Dingey said.
Stufkosky said an ongoing need exists to develop and maintain a presence at Veronica Connor Middle School and Grand Island High School, to get more students and staff at the schools involved as supporters grow up and move on.
"We don't really have an 'in,' shall we say, in the school," Dingey said, noting that in recent years at GIHS a student "spreading the Relay word," Shannon Boreali, graduated and has moved on to Cortland and is working on Relay there.
The new Relay year has started and online registration has begun.
The 2013 Relay will take place at Veterans Park this year near Memorial Library. The move won't result in a sacrifice of activities or features of the Relay that helped make up event at Masters Field so popular.
"If anything we'll have more," Stufkosky said.
"We'll have more spots we can put people because we'll have more blacktop," Dingey said. "It kind of opens up more opportunities."
"We're excited to be there," Dingey said.
The venue offers new athletic activities for patrons of the event. "We're trying to make it more of a community event. You don't have to have cancer or know somebody with cancer to be a part of this," Stufkosky said.
"We'll make use of what's there," Dingey said of Vets Park. "Do something with the basketball courts, the volleyball courts, something on one of the ball diamonds."
"People will have something to do. It's not just a track to walk around, but there will be activities and that going on for all ages."
The co-chairs hope to improve on the 2012 Relay campaign on GI, which had 36 teams and 634 participants. The effort raised a final total of $162,149, giving the GI edition of the national event the 19th largest fund total in all of New York/New Jersey. "We're No. 1 west of Syracuse," Dingey said. Most of the top 18 Relays were in metropolitan New York City.
"It's just amazing what Grand Island did," Dingey said.