by Larry Austin
Participants in the Grand Island Relay For Life were asked to light a fire within at a kickoff meeting Wednesday at Connor Middle School.
The kickoff begins the season for the annual Relay, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
Lynn Dingey, co-chair of GI Relay For Life, said the 2014 event will run at Veterans Park, May 31 at 2 p.m. to June 1 at 2 a.m. She asked those at the meeting to work to make the 2014 event "bigger and better."
Casey Dahlstrom was named the 2014 honorary survivor at the kickoff, while Mary Dunbar-Daluisio spoke on behalf of caregivers.
Alicia Sommer introduced Dahlstrom at the kickoff, saying she first met him in grade school when he collected pop can tabs to raise money for Camp Good Days and Special Times.
"There aren't that many kids out there that would spend their spare time raising money for a cause instead of playing with their toys," said Sommer, like Dahlstrom a survivor of a childhood cancer.
"Just as he was with Camp Good Days, Casey has been a true asset to Grand Island's Relay For Life," Sommer said, calling Dahlstrom a "go-getter."
Dahlstrom told his story of overcoming cancer that was diagnosed when he was 3.
"Today, we have the chance to make a difference," Dahlstrom told the audience. "We have the chance to rock-out cancer once and for all. For over 10 years, Grand Island, you have raised over $1 million dollars. In the last 20 years, deaths from cancer have dropped 20 percent."
Jen McCardle, staff partner with the American Cancer Society, praised the committee members of the GI Relay For Life, who have "worked so hard to get this event, this Relay, where it is today, as one of the top 20 Relays in Western New York and Upstate New York."
The 2013 GI Relay raised $150,677 last year, with 41 teams, and hosted 110 survivors at the event.
"I can already tell that this is going to be our best and brightest year yet, and I can't wait to be a part of that," McCardle said. "Each one of you guys, whether you're a participant, a team captain, a survivor, a caregiver, a sponsor, a board member, a vendor that helps us out ... you guys all play such an essential role in winning the fight against cancer once and for all, and Relay For Life just enables all of us to come together to honor those that we have lost, celebrate those that have survived, thank those who have devoted themselves as caregivers and raised money to find a cure and improve the quality of life of those who are currently battling the disease. And because of you guys, we are making a difference and saving lives, and that is awesome."
In thanking the Relay teams for the job they do in raising money, Dingey noted that for $1 raised for the American Cancer Society, 72 cents goes to fight cancer, with research and early detection; while "only 7 cents of this little dollar goes to general costs and overhead."
"So this little dollar goes a long, long way helping our survivors get better. Every dollar does make a difference."
Co-chair Becky Sommer-Stufkosky said the Relay would honor all caregivers this year and introduced Mary Dunbar-Daluisio, a longtime chair of the GI Relay and now a consultant to the Lewiston Relay. Dunbar-Daluisio, asked participants to think of the person who is "your reason to Relay."
"And once you have that person there, light that internal luminaria that makes you glow."