Tweaking the Relay

Published 8:53 pm Monday, March 9, 2015

The local volunteers who lead the effort to plan and pull off the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay For Life have a tough, often thankless job.

Through several years of changes to personnel, setup and venue, the Relay has suffered from a bit of an identity crisis, one exemplified from the fact that its move to Bennett’s Creek Park seems to have alienated some of the participants from the areas that comprise historic Suffolk. Some of those old teams chose not to participate at the new venue, and the resulting loss of fundraising power has resulted in less money raised than could have been collected for the organization’s cancer-fighting efforts.

But those same volunteer leaders have refused to give up in the face of such negativism, and they continue to tweak the event to make it more fun, more accessible and more effective in meeting its fundraising goals.

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This year, there will be a few new features that organizers hope will bring back some of those old teams, while attracting new ones, as well.

One of the biggest of those changes is the change of days. Instead of being a Friday/Saturday event, as in the past, the Relay will start Saturday afternoon and end early Sunday morning. There will be an ecumenical church service on the grounds to accommodate those who would not want to miss their weekly worship, and the Saturday start will mean that most participants will not have to take time from work in order to be at the event.

Another big change is the fact that registration for this year’s event is free. Participants still will be asked to raise pledge money, but they will no longer be required to pay for the opportunity to do so. Organizers hope that removing the registration fee will help bring back some of those lost teams.

There will also be a variety of events taking place throughout the nighttime Relay hours, all designed to convince people to remain at the event for the duration for all the fun and camaraderie the Relay For Life has to offer.

There may not be a perfect formula for Suffolk’s Rockin’ Relay For Life — and it may be that the formula changes from one year to the next. But the event’s co-chairwomen should be congratulated for continuing to tweak things to make this important event work better each year.

To learn how you can participate in the event, visit