Relay for Life: Countless steps brought Langley Relay to its 10th year

Those who walk in the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life in Langley often have a personal story about why they do it.

For many, it’s a relative lost to cancer. Others are there to celebrate the successful fight their father, mother, sibling, or other relative has made against the disease. Those wearing yellow shirts are survivors, or in some cases still in treatment.

It was one cancer case that caused the creation of the Langley Relay for Life.

Langley’s Arne Olson founded the local event, having heard about other relays in Surrey and other nearby communities. His own son Joel had survived a childhood cancer, and Olson wanted to give back to the cause of research and patient support.

He started working with the Cancer Society and gathered together a band of like-minded volunteers.

They brought the tradition to Langley, creating a 12-hour, all night non-competitive relay based around the track at the McLeod Athletic Park.

Every year, on a Friday night at 7 p.m., teams gather after weeks or months of fundraising and begin sending out their members to make laps. Some run, most amble and talk and take in the entertainment and games that go on in the center of the track.

At the end of the night, the money collected goes towards projects of the Canadian Cancer Society, from research into new treatments, to support for patients like rides to the hospital or summer camps for kids facing the disease.

Over the years, some have gone on to other projects, and new people have been attracted to the cause.

One of those who has been there for a long time is taking on some new roles this year, as Bev Dornan stepped up to take on the task of being the volunteer chair for the event, which will take place for the 10th time on June 20 and 21.

This will be a year of renewal, Dornan said, the first in several years in which she won’t be splitting her duties with Howie Vickberg, longtime chairman.

Dornan’s roots go back to the beginning, after Olson recruited her in the very first year.

She’s also been a team member through her workplace team, the Otter Trotters, throughout.

She admits, with her dual roles, she doesn’t get a lot of time to do the team fundraising. Of course, she’s busy making sure that a hundred other things get dealt with in the next week and a half, along with the Cancer Society staffers and the sizeable crew of volunteers who make it all come together.

When Dornan started, she hadn’t been too closely affected by cancer herself.

As of this year, her brother has just finished a round of treatment. It makes you pay even more attention to the cause, she noted.

“I think every family has someone they can connect with,” said Dornan.

This year’s event will be in many ways about renewal, Dornan said. There are a number of new teams, changes to the entertainment lineup, and new activities, such as a DJ and a light-up dance floor.

There will be food trucks arriving, another first, to refuel people who have racked up a few dozen rounds of the track.

Finally, it may be a big year for overall fundraising, totalling up the last decade worth of Relay events.

“We hope to hit over $3 million,” said Jenn Schroeder, one of the key Cancer Society staffers organizing the Langley Relay.

That $3 million count would represent the total amount raised over the last decade in Langley alone.

“It’ll be a big milestone for Langley,” Schroeder said.

This year’s theme will be Relay Around the World, and participants are invited to either dress up or decorate their camp sites in a variety of international themes.

For most people, the big job for Relay will be over before they arrive to walk, with the bulk of fundraising finished.

The total will be announced on Saturday morning, after 12 hours of walking, to those who are still awake and alert. Until then, there is still time to donate to the cause through www.relayforlife.ca/langley.

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