Ready, set, ‘Relay’

Julie Teslevich, one of the co-chairs for the 2021 event, addresses teams at the beginning of Relay for Life Saturday at Wendover Middle School in Hempfield Township. This year’s event featured a merger of Relay events in Greensburg, Latrobe, and Mount Pleasant.

Not even scattered thunderstorms and a rainy day could dampen the spirits of cancer survivors, caregivers, and their family and friends Saturday, who came out to participate in the first in-person American Cancer Society Relay for Life in nearly 18 months.

This was the first event for the new merged Westmoreland County Relay for Life, which is an event combining the previous events from Greensburg, Latrobe and Mount Pleasant.

Once the organization gave the permission for Relay events to continue, organizers planned a scaled down version held from 4 to 9 p.m. instead of the usual all-day event.

It was also moved from the stadium at Hempfield Area High School to Wendover Middle School’s football field due to a scheduled replacement of turf and walking track at the high school.

However, inclement weather forecasts soon forced organizers to pivot agains and the event was moved from the football field and track to inside the building utilizing the hallways for walking, the gym for team activities and the cafeteria for a planned survivor celebration.

The traditional survivor dinner with fare provided by Texas Roadhouse had to be altered as well as volunteers prepackaged the meals for survivors and guests to take with them as a sit-down meal was still prohibited.

In addition, the number of teams who set up “campsites” this year was much less than organizers expect in a “normal” year. But all agreed that they were just happy to have anything in-person after the 2020 Relay for Life had to be reduced to a virtual event.

Although the duration of the event was shortened to five hours, many Relay activities were still held, including the luminaria ceremony, which was held at 9 p.m.

“This is a time for us to grieve for those we’ve lost. It’s a time for us to reflect on how cancer has affected each of us personally. It’s a time for us to look inside of ourselves with quiet reflection and find hope,” stated Katie Ronald, staff partner with the American Cancer Society, during the ceremony.

While the point of Relay for Life ultimately is to honor survivors and remember those who have passed, fundraising is another function of the annual event.

According to Ronald, expectations on many fronts had to be tempered. Regardless, she announced at the event that so far, the fundraising total for 2020-21 was at $107,000, without final tallies from the event yet available. Fundraising activities for the event will continue until the end of summer.

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