Relay For Life at the Garcelon Civic Center raises $21,000 for Canadian Cancer Society

Kathy Bockus/Courier Jacob Grover, 7, centre, is a cancer survivor, in remission from leukemia. The youngster, the son of Nicole and Jamie Arsenault of St. Stephen, participated in his fifth Relay For Life event Friday in St. Stephen, taking a minute to pose with these RCMP officers, Cst. Dave Thorne, left, and Cst. Kim Henry, who led the Survivors' Lap during the relay's opening ceremonies. This year the 12 participating teams raised $21,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.

St. Stephen – Participants in this year’s Relay For Life have raised $21,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.

All in all, the relay “went well,” in its new location, the Garcelon Civic Center, said Jeannie Fowler, local relay chairperson. “There were some glitches we have to figure out, and some of the teams had some good ideas.”

The 15th annual relay was relocated to the civic centre, from the track behind the St. Stephen High School.

“We loved having it at the civic centre,” said Fowler. “The set up was so much easier; it took half the time. A lot of the teams really liked it.” Fowler said no one was bothered by pesky mosquitoes, or black flies, or the threat of rain at the indoor location.

She said she and the organizing committee are definitely hoping to hold the relay at the civic centre again next year.
Fowler lauded the work of the members of the St. Stephen-Milltown Lionettes, who prepared and served the Survivors’ Dinner – a hot ham meal with all the fixings – for about 100 cancer survivors.

“The dinner was beautiful; it went so smooth. The Lionettes do a great job.”
During the dinner, organizer Shirley Johnston paid tribute to the late Chelsea Allaby, a long time participant in the Survivors’ Dinner, and Survivors’ Lap. The 24-year-old woman died Oct. 13, 2016.

Johnston said Allaby “loved the relay”, and each year looked forward to greeting the Lionettes, and other survivors at the dinner.

“We remember Chelsea today. When she came in a room, she just lit up the room,” said Johnston. She recalled how Allaby “always wanted to carry the banner” and how her father, RCMP Cpl. Brent Allaby, would dress in his red serge uniform to escort the survivors.

“Her smile and her inspiration is just something we can all take away I think, to live each day that we have and to be thankful for that.”

Johnston also told the survivors “you are the reason we relay” and thanked them for attending. She also lauded the organizing committee, and all the volunteers who help pull the relay together, including bagpiper Dana Planetta, who led the Survivors Lap.

“We couldn’t do it without everyone pitching in.”
Brianna Starkey, the Canadian Cancer Society’s special events coordinator, thanked Fowler, the committee, the survivors for attending, and the teams for all their hard work.

She also thanked the civic centre staff for “being amazing”, and contributing to the ease of setting up for the relay.
Starkey said relocating the relay to the civic centre has resulted in a cost savings for the event.

She said by moving the event, the relay committee does not bear the increasingly high costs of having to pay for tents, portable washrooms, or a stage.

“We are renting the entire civic centre for less than what the tents and Porta Potties cost us last year, and get the comfort of not having to be outside.”
Relocating, said Starkey, was “easier – financially, and logistically.”

“Her smile and her inspiration is just something we
can all take away I think, to live each day that we
have and to be thankful for that.”
~Relay organizer, Shirley Johnston

However Starkey said she wasn’t comfortable with releasing the details of the cost of staging the relay.
“We’ve never given out the financials of what’s going into the relay,” said Starkey. “I don’t feel comfortable releasing it (the information). It’s cheaper using the civic centre.”

Starkey said the committee is comfortable with the decision it made to relocate.
“We’re always trying to save the public money with the expenses. I hope they would trust us to make the decision.”

Starkey said the committee members know the extent of the expenses, and if a member of the public also wanted to know, they were invited to join the committee to help make the decisions.

Organizing meetings begin in September for the following year’s relay, Starkey said.
Civic centre rental information available to the public shows a not-for-profit group can rent the conference room where the Survivors’ Banquet was be held for four hours, for $204. A per-hour rental for not-for-profit groups is $75.

Not-for-profit rental of the arena surface, with the ice floor covering and including taxes, is $1,700.
Starkey said the Town of St. Stephen sponsored the relay with the donation of a stage. The stage rental for the event at the high school was another large cost, Starkey explained.

“We are saving by doing this,” said Starkey. She said the committee had, over the years, been decreasing the size of the tents it rented for the relay in order to help cut back costs.
Starkey said it was not uncommon for relays in various communities to pay to use facilities, “but they aren’t usually this nice.”

She said the committee understands the town is also a business and can’t afford to give away the facility for free, or it would start a landslide of requests.
Starkey said she’d hate to think the cost of the civic centre rental was the public focus on the relay, and not the work the committee and teams are supporting.

She said money raised by past relays has paid for the cost of two clinical trials for New Brunswick residents.
Starkey said residents of Charlotte County are participating in those trials being held at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, and at the Universite de Moncton.

Starkey said the funding raised by the relay participants stays in New Brunswick, and helps pay for those clinical trials, and things like the wig room at Charlotte County Hospital, which was opened last year.

“We have the wig room which gives away wigs that are worth hundreds of dollars for free,” said Starkey.
She said people can go to the oncology department, get fitted on site and “take their wig home that day.”

She said people can go to the oncology department, get fitted on site and “take their wig home that day.”

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Kathy Bockus
Journalist Kathy Bockus is based in St. Stephen and has worked for The Saint Croix Courier as a general news reporter and feature writer for the past 15 years. She began her lengthy newspaper career in 1974 with a daily in Saint John. Bockus says she always jokes being a reporter is a licence to be nosey, but firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell. She can be contacted at 321-0759.