By Taylor Burgess
Over the Mountain residents will have plenty of chances to get moving for a good cause this spring as several organizations are finalizing plans for Relay For Life events.
The first event in the OTM area will be held at Mountain Brook High School on April 4. Events are planned locally through May 16.
The Relay For Life is a fundraising walk event organized by the American Cancer Society and started in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt in Tacoma, Wash. Money raised goes to the American Cancer Society’s research efforts to end cancer permanently.
Community members organize into teams, collect pledges for their walk and then meet at the events, which can last up to 24 hours. During the events, all teams have one member walking on the track or walking area at all times. Participants frequently walk in memory of loved ones or in support of friends and family members who are cancer survivors.
Each year, all Relay For Life events raise more than $400 million and have raised nearly $5 billion in total since 1985, American Cancer Society officials said.
Several events are planned in the Over the Mountain area:
•Relay For Life at Mountain Brook High School will be from 4 p.m.-midnight on April 4 at the school’s stadium.
•Relay For Life at Vestavia Hills High School will be from noon-midnight on April 5 at the school’s stadium.
•Relay For Life at Spain Park High School will be from noon-midnight on April 11 at the school.
•Relay For Life Homewood will be from 4 p.m.-midnight on April 25 at Homewood Central Park.
•Relay For Life at Oak Mountain High School will be from 6 p.m. on May 2 through 6 a.m. on May 3 at Heardmont Park.
•Relay For Life at Briarwood Christian School will be from noon-10 p.m. on April 5 at the school.
•Relay For Life Hoover will be from noon-midnight on May 7 at Hoover High School.
•Relay For Life at John Carroll Catholic High School will be from 4 p.m.-midnight on May 16 at the school’s stadium.
Though all events are organized by the American Cancer Society, individual events and teams believe strongly in their own goals to help beat cancer, said Sam Campbell, chairman of Briarwood Christian School’s Relay For Life.
“Our event is different from the others because it is our first year to do it,” Campbell said. “Even though it is our first year, the community has really reached out to us and wants to help.”
Individual events set different fundraising goals, and Briarwood Relay organizers hope to meet a target of $40,000.
“I’d like to see the community come together on April 5 and just blow that number away,” Campbell said. “I think we’ll exceed that goal because of all the interest and also because of all the hard work the students are putting in.”
For the school-based events at Mountain Brook, Vestavia, John Carroll Catholic, Oak Mountain, Briarwood Christian and Spain Park, representatives from the American Cancer Society asked teachers to recommend students with the ability to lead the events, according to Campbell.
“They pick who they think who would be the best leaders for different specific jobs,” Campbell said.
Other Over the Mountain events approach their fundraising efforts in different ways.
To promote their relay, Homewood will host a “Zombie” Run For Life on April 26, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at Homewood High School. Participants pay $30, or $120 for a team of four, to attempt to outrun “zombies” and beat other teams in a two-mile fun run. Proceeds go directly to the American Cancer Society. Runners can visit www.zombierunforlife.com to register.
Additionally, the Homewood Relay held a kickoff gathering on Jan. 25 at Aloft Hotel in downtown Homewood to promote its April relay.
The Hoover Relay took a similar approach, hosting a Feb. 13 kickoff at Moe’s Southwest Grill, with the restaurant donating 20 percent of the proceeds to the Hoover event.
In December, the Mountain Brook High School Relay attempted to register 25 walking teams over 25 days, with a minimum of five people per team and a $25 pledge per participant.
Organizers of the Mountain Brook event said their goal is to raise $250,000 during the 2014 event.
Mountain Brook High School and Vestavia Hills High School have both raised significant funds for the American Cancer society in the past. Together, they raised $468,000 in 2013 and ranked second and fourth, respectively, in the American Cancer Society’s top five youth Relay events in the nation.
The American Cancer Society values the efforts of individual relay teams to bring in funds for research and other efforts, said Adam Castleberry, a Relay For Life specialist and staff partner for many Shelby County events, including the Oak Mountain High School Relay.
“Relay For Life draws attention to the progress being made by the American Cancer Society and the work yet to be done,” Castleberry said.
The events bring members of the community together for a common cause, said Malinda Williams, a Relay For Life specialist and staff partner for the Briarwood Christian School event.
“Many participants are our family, friends and neighbors who have faced cancer themselves. Their involvement gives us hope that, together, we can finish the fight against cancer,” Williams said. “Each new team that registers brings us that much closer.”
Organizers of Over the Mountain Relay For Life events said they are determined to exceed their fundraising goals and to get even more people involved this year.
“We’ve banded together, and we’re making this happen. We’ll reach our goal and excel even past that,” Campbell said.
To find a local team or register a team for a Relay For Life event, visit www.relayforlife.org. For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org.