PARKERSBURG - While planning and preparation for the annual Wood County Relay for Life is a year-round activity for many, efforts swing into action at the start of the year as teams register and plan activities and fundraisers, usually with the help of the American Cancer Society.
Susie Warman, community manager with the society in Parkersburg, said the first team meetings have been held in January and February, with three more planned in March, April and May, prior to the annual Relay for Life on May 17-18 at City Park in Parkersburg.
The cancer society has volunteers working on team recruitment to bring in new teams and on team retention, to bring back old teams. Warman said the retention aspect has special emphasis this year, with the Wood County Relay holding its 20th annual event. One of the organizers' goals is to bring back as many teams from the past two decades as they can.
Laura Nelson, left, of Parkersburg registers her team for this year’s Wood County Relay for Life with Brenda McGinnis, right, registration co-chair for the Relay, during the February team meeting at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Parkersburg. (Photo by Wayne Towner)
"We're reaching back to some of those older teams that haven't been with us," she said.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society, Warman said.
Through the monthly team meetings and other avenues, the society helps teams organize and provide advice and assistance in a variety of ways. Several fundraisers are planned by the society for teams in which teams can participate by selling tickets, Warman said.
Those include a basket bingo event on March 16, an Applebee's pancake breakfast on April 6 and the chapter's eighth annual purse auction on April 27.
In the past, people paid a $10 registration fee and received a shirt. In a change for this year, Warman said participants must raise at least $100 to receive their Relay for Life participant T-shirt.
That's why it is best not to wait until the last minute to register as a walker or as a team, Warman said. Relay officials will be accepting registrations up to the day of the Relay, but those people may not receive a participation T-Shirt this year since it couldn't be ordered prior to the event,.
"Everything goes toward that," Warman said. "Your $10 registration fee goes toward that $100 goal, if you sell luminarias for $5 a piece, that goes toward your fundraising goal, if you're part of our bingo or part of our breakfast selling tickets, all of that goes toward your goal," she said.
At February's team meeting, nearly 120 people gathered at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Parkersburg to discuss plans for this year's Relay, ranging from social media updates to fundraising activities.
Kim Flesher was attending the February team meeting representing one of the vendors, Scentsy, which are wickless candles which teams can sell as fundraisers for the Relay. Flesher said she has participated on teams in past Relays, but this is her first involvement in the fundraising aspect.
"All of my commission will benefit the teams," she said, adding several people had approached her about doing fundraisers and she hopes it will take off.
Mary Corra, formerly of Parkersburg and now living in Virginia, is captain of the For Pete's Sake team, which has been participating in the Wood County Relay for 15 years. She was also attending the February team meeting, as her team's captain.
Corra said she always comes back to Parkersburg for the annual Relay and the preparations leading up to it. She said the team meetings organized by the society and the Relay chairs are an important part of the process for teams interested in walking in the Relay who want to get the most they can out of the experience.
"They need to come to these meetings to find out what you need, what you need to know, what you need to bring to the campsite and everything. You find out how to fund-raise, in case you don't know," she said.
The team meetings are a very helpful tool, especially for newer teams, Corra said.
In recent years, the growth of social and electronic media has had a very positive impact on organizing and fundraising, but Warman said the team meetings are still an important tool to get ready for the annual Relay.
There are several ways to contact the society, including:
* The website is www.relayforlife.org/woodwv to register as a participant or survivor, make a donation, purchase a luminaria, etc.
* Go to the chapter's Facebook page at Relay For Life Wood County Parkersburg WV
* Download the local mobile app for push notifications, information on fundraisers and more - Relay For Life Wood County WV - make sure to go to the local one, not just Relay For Life
* Tweet at #RFLWoodCountyWV
* Call the American Cancer Society chapter in Parkersburg at 304-422-1472, option 3