I recently met a woman who is battling cancer; she reached out and hugged me and between tears told me about what she’s dealing with and how much the CanadianCancer Society has helped her on her journey towards better health.
I realized then what my new role as the West Kootenay annual giving coordinator meant and I saw who the society was helping.
To some, I’ve been a byline at the Trail Times for the past eight years or so. It was just this spring that I left my job at the community newspaper to pursue this newopportunity. I thought I had an inclination as to what my work at the society would involve, but it wasn’t until I did my first Relay For Life event in Grand Forks lastmonth that I really began to understand what my job entails.
I started at the Trail office in April, in the thick of the Daffodil campaign wrap-up and submerged in the Relay For Life preparation. Much of my early days were spentstaring at the computer, trying to navigate unfamiliar programs and learning the basics of the office, which provides resources and a starting place for anyone whoneeds emotional or financial help while living with and treating cancer.
The morning of June 4, I jumped in my car in Rossland and headed to Grand Forks to finally meet Jennifer Edwards, co-chair of the Boundary Country Relay For Lifeand a highly committed volunteer. For months, Jenn had been planning the event — as she’s done for years — and leading a solid group of committee members. Thiscommittee was not only planning and orchestrating event day details, but were also relay team members themselves, and steadily raising funds in their so-calledspare time.
That day I was warmed not only by the desert sun, but by the community that came together to fight back; teams made up of survivors, family members, co-workersand other combinations rallied to raise approximately $20,000 for the cause.
The day was so well tuned that I spent most of my time filling in any gaps and getting to know those who came out. I sat at the survivor tent, where I was touched bythe woman’s emotional and generous words, and I was inspired by another survivor who bravely shared her story on the mic.
My tears were a steady stream by the final laps of the day during the luminary ceremony. I cried for my uncle who died a few years back and I wept for my aunt who isstill here after a difficult time. I seriously considered my blessings, a list that includes my health and is topped by my children and husband.
I came back to my desk with focus and buckled down to prepare for the next Relay adventure — this one unfolding in Castlegar. The West Kootenay Relay For Lifetook place June 18 in less ideal weather. Actually, the hard rain and swift swirling winds called to mind the tough experiences of cancer survivors as tents literallyhurled through the air and flipped into other tents and participants’ socks soaked through their shoes.
Although the weather was atrocious, it didn’t dampen the outcome; again, I was floored by the incredible community of people committed to the cause. I met awoman from Nelson who had pictures with her of her late daughter, who was taken too early by cancer. Her story was one of the many pillars in a foundation thatkept the pop-up tent Relay community driven.
Co-chair Kelly McCreight and her family and friends pulled the event off together, and participants raised nearly another $20,000.
Now as I sit at my desk, I have people in mind. Much like I did at my previous job at the Times, I feel lucky to have the opportunity to connect with members of thecommunity who sometimes share intimate details about theirs or their families’ lives. One of the last stories I submitted to the Trail Times as a reporter was aboutTrail resident Lynn Gould’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for her granddaughter Natasha Rose Gould (Team NRG, Daffodil Dash, April 24), who is fighting anincurable brain tumor. In the short time I’ve known Lynn, I’ve witnessed her rally the community — from teammates to local elementary schools — to make a realdifference. Team NRG raised about $23,000 of the over $40,000 brought in by the first Daffodil Dash event held in Trail this year.
Other successful campaigns held during Daffodil Month included the pins, fresh cuts, and door-to-door canvassing, all supported by volunteers who devoted timeand energy to the campaign. I’m still tallying the final numbers for these efforts after a very busy start.
As I find a quiet (shhh, maybe I shouldn’t put that in writing) moment, I wanted to let you know I’m still here, doggedly working behind the scenes to tell people’sstories but this time with a focus on a cancer-free future.
If you’re in Trail, the Canadian Cancer Society is no longer in the Gulch but downtown near the post office. Come down to the office, located in the South KootenayBusiness Centre (15-835 Spokane St.), for a visit, and while you’re here, check out our wig selection. Ask me about CancerConnection, a program where we may beable to put you in touch with someone who has faced a similar cancer diagnosis and treatment as you. Perhaps you have a great idea for an independent fundraiser oryou would like to volunteer? Or you’d like to do some advocacy work for the Society? Or maybe you just want to say hello? Whatever the reason, I hope to see youagain soon.
Valerie Rossi, Rossland