Changes coming to Wood County Relay for Life

Single-day event, shorter walking circuit

File Photo People walk along the City Park pond at this year’s Wood County Relay for Life.

PARKERSBURG — Next year’s Wood County Relay for Life will have a new format organizers hope will encourage more attendance.

Those in attendance at Tuesday’s Relay Team Wrap-Up Celebration in Parkersburg City Park voted to move the 2020 event from an overnight affair to a 6 p.m. to midnight activity and reduce the walking area to around the park pond only.

“It makes it a lot easier for a lot of people to attend in a specific time frame,” said John Chalfant, a member of the event’s Planning Committee. “It just seemed like fewer and fewer people were staying overnight.”

Attendance at the Relay has declined in recent years, although the 2019 edition saw an increase in the number of participating teams from 42 to 56, said Carmen Hathaway, senior community development manager for the American Cancer Society.

“It’s just the way our social atmosphere is,” she said, pointing to declines at fairs, festivals, churches and other events. “Everybody’s lives are so busy. And this gives them a time to come to Relay but also to go to something else” on a weekend.

With thunderstorms in the forecast, most of this year’s Wood County Relay activities last month were pushed from a Friday evening to Saturday afternoon.

“It kind of showed us that is an opportunity … and it would work well that (one) day,” Hathaway said.

It’s a change some other Relays in the region have made, she said.

It has not been decided yet whether the single evening of activities would be held on a Friday or Saturday.

The opening cancer survivor laps are walked just around the City Park Pond. That was also the original format when the Relay started 26 years ago.

“At one point, it was necessary for the Relay to use probably two-thirds of the City Park area,” Chalfant said.

That’s not needed anymore, and shrinking the area of the activities is hoped to bolster the sense of community and camaraderie, organizers said. A shorter distance might also encourage more people to participate, Chalfant said.

“We just want everybody to be a little closer together,” Hathaway said.

Beyond these two broad changes, a lot of details will be worked out over the next year as the 2020 Relay approaches. Hathaway said the committee would welcome additional members, especially those who are detail-oriented and enjoy working with social media. Interested volunteers can contact her at carmen.hathaway@cancer.org.

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