By Emily Williams
As the end of the school year fast approaches, springtime in many Alabama schools is not only devoted to fitting in those last-minute lessons and preparing for final tests and exams. It also is a final chance for students to band together and give back to the community.
According to the American Cancer Society of Alabama, approximately 80 schools, organizations and community groups throughout the state are preparing for and hosting Relay for Life events. The events raise funds for the organization’s mission to find a cure for cancer by funding research and to provide patient support locally and across the country.
Money raised supports the organization’s efforts on a national scale, funding more than 690 resource programs and services that provide patient support and help manage cancer treatment and recovery, as well as provide a network of information and funding for local cancer research.
In the Over the Mountain area, Homewood, Hoover and Vestavia Hills will be among the groups hosting Relay for Life events this spring.
Organized through the efforts of community members as well as Homewood High School’s Relay for Life club, Relay for Life of Homewood will be held April 27 in Homewood’s Central Park from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.
The organizers have set a goal to raise $100,000 and are well on their way, having hosted events throughout the school year to fund the event as well as recruit people to start their own relay fundraising teams.
Individual teams also are adding to the count, already having raised more than $10,500.
Community volunteers coordinate with the high school’s club members, taking the lead in organizing community-wide fundraising events throughout the year.
This year, the club hosted the Relay for Life Block Party on Jan. 23 at Red Hills Brewing Company to celebrate the crucial fundraising months leading up to the big event.
Relay for life of Homewood event co-chair Kristen Francisco, now a community volunteer, has taken part in the local event since her freshman year of college at Samford University, which coincided with her aunt’s breast cancer diagnosis.
“I’d known other people who had battled cancer, but I don’t think it was until my aunt’s diagnosis that I realized just how important Relay for Life and the work of the American Cancer Society is,” she said.
Though her aunt won her battle with breast cancer in the same year, she recently received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I Relay because nobody should have to hear the words, ‘You have cancer’ even once in their life, much less more than once,” Francisco said. “I Relay because I dream of a day where cancer doesn’t exist. I Relay because, while I’m not a doctor, this is something I can do to help end this terrible disease.”
In addition to Homewood, Relay for Life of Hoover will be hosting its annual event April 27. With the school system’s two high school’s taking turns hosting the annual event, Hoover High School beginning at 6 p.m.
As with each of the Relay for Life main events, the evening will begin with an opening ceremony and survivor/caregiver walk, recognizing those who have and are surviving cancer and the people who have stood by their side throughout the process.
In addition to live music, games, food and more, the evening’s festivities will include the Luminaria Ceremony, in which candles are lit in honor of individuals who have lost their battle with cancer.
Last year, the Spain Park High School event raised approximately $20,000. Organizers from both high schools hope to beat that number, setting a goal to raise $25,000.
Known for busting through its fundraising goals for the past few years, Relay for Life of Vestavia Hills is set for April 14, from 2 p.m. until midnight at Vestavia Hills High School.
The school’s Relay for Life club has set a goal this year for $250,000, kicking off fundraising in the winter with a relay night at one of the school’s basketball games.
Last year, the club raised more than $280,000 through the main event, as well as various fundraisers leading up to the night’s festivities. Having already raised over $105,400, the club is inches away from being half-way towards their set goal.
The school’s fundraising began with school-wide events including a Curechella kick-off, a music festival held at the high school on Jan. 20, followed by a fundraising night at the Vestavia vs Hoover basketball game on Jan. 26 and a Sadie Hawkins Dance on Feb. 16.
In addition, the club’s annual community-wide Princess and Superhero Breakfast was held on Feb. 24, with club members dressing up as popular princesses and action heroes and meeting with local children to share breakfast and take pictures.
Most recently, the club hosted a Rebel Run. Formerly named the Purple People Run, the March 17 5K was organized by VHHS student chairs Kendall Carter and Breck Cuddy and co-chair Elizabeth Ledbetter 5K and proved a success despite the rain.
For the Kids
At Mountain Brook High School, school-wide charitable fundraising efforts this year have shifted with the introduction of the new Raise MB Club to focus on pediatric cancer this year.
Restructuring its Relay for Life Club, students conceptualized a new student club, Raise MB, during their summer vacation and implemented the organization at the beginning of this school year.
In its inaugural year, the club chose the Sid Strong Foundation, a pediatric cancer awareness and research foundation that was formed in honor of the late Sid Ortis of Mountain Brook. A local foundation, the organization’s funds are donated to pediatric cancer research labs at Children’s Hospital.
So far this year, the club has hosted numerous events beginning with a football fundraiser at the Mountain Brook vs Thompson High School football game in October that raised $2,340, an online auction in December and a pool tournament in March.
The club will be one that hosts fundraisers throughout the year and all proceeds combined will be donated to a chosen beneficiary, a local non-profit organization chosen each year. ❖