Relay for Life set to launch 2014 fundraising campaign

By: Jeremy Selweski | C&G Newspapers | Published February 12, 2014

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It’s time to rally the troops again.

On Feb. 13, the Relay for Life of Clinton Township will officially get underway as volunteers and participants for the American Cancer Society’s signature event gather for a kickoff rally to launch their fundraising efforts for the year.

The rally, which marks the start of a new season in the local fight against cancer, will take place in the Mackinac Room of the Macomb Intermediate School District building at 44001 Garfield Road, just south of Hall Road, in Clinton Township. Refreshments and registration will begin at 6:30 p.m., and a program will follow at 7 p.m.

“I’ve seen the importance and the impact that this event has made over the years,” said Mark Sosnowski, a Relay for Life volunteer. “It’s always great to see people from across the community join together in the fight against cancer.”

Although the Relay for Life of Clinton Township is more than three months away, volunteers like Sosnowski believe that now is the time for people to get involved. Each year, one in every 100 Americans participates in this fundraising event that has become a global phenomenon.

“The idea of the kickoff is twofold,” explained Emily Karlichek, Relay for Life specialist at the American Cancer Society’s Southfield branch. “It’s the official launch of our season for our team leaders and members, and we’re also ushering new people into our world. We want to make sure that people who are interested in getting involved with Relay for Life have all the information they need about who we are and what we do.”

Residents are invited to attend the kickoff celebration to learn more about the upcoming Relay for Life walk-a-thon — which will be held at the International Academy of Macomb on May 18 — and how they can become part of the 24-hour, team-based fundraising event and its goal of paving the way to a world with less cancer and more birthdays.

According to Sosnowski, representatives from the American Cancer Society will give an overview of Relay for Life, provide tips to guests on how to start their own team, and discuss the programs that the ACS offers, the research that it conducts and the progress that it has made over the years. Cancer survivors will also be on hand to talk about their experience with Relay for Life and how it has impacted their lives.

For those looking to organize a new team or join an existing one, Karlichek stressed that Relay for Life welcomes all people into the fold, regardless of their background or personal experience with cancer.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate, so neither do we,” she said. “Our Relay for Life teams are made up of people from all different walks of life — we have youth teams, senior teams and everything in between. There are lots of individuals who are willing to get behind this very worthy cause because they have a shared connection: devastation over what they’ve lost, but also hope that they can move forward.”

Mandy Sosnowski, Mark’s wife, is a member of the Relay for Life of Clinton Township Planning Committee and has been an event volunteer for the last 13 years. She turned to Relay because of her family’s long and difficult history with cancer: Out of seven relatives who have been diagnosed over the years, only her mother has survived.

“You start to feel hopeless, so you want to find a way to help out in any way you can,” said Sosnowski, whose grandfather and father were both diagnosed with cancer nine months apart, and later passed away. “That’s how I got involved with Relay, and it’s been a big part of my life ever since. The advances in medicine that they’ve made since I first started are amazing — the quality of life for people with cancer has gotten so much better.”

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature annual event to raise funds and awareness for cancer research and patient programs. The event takes place in more than 5,200 cities nationwide and in more than 600 cities in 24 countries outside the U.S. Relay for Life participants have a chance to celebrate the victory of local cancer survivors during the Survivors Lap, remember those who are currently fighting cancer and those who lost their battle with the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony, and take part in the Fight Back Ceremony, which gives them a chance to proclaim their own way of taking action against cancer.

“We encourage everyone to get involved with this great event,” Mandy Sosnowski said. “The American Cancer Society is very transparent in how they operate and how they allocate their funds. They’re the largest nongovernmental entity that provides money for cancer research, and 90 percent of their funds go straight to the cause.”

The ACS has certainly received plenty of local support. As Karlichek noted, the Relay for Life of Clinton Township is one of the top 20 Relay events in Michigan and keeps climbing higher. Mark Sosnowski added that it usually has about 1,000 participants each year, and some years, it has raised more than $100,000.

Karlichek attributed this success to hard work, dedication and, above all, teamwork.

“The key idea behind Relay for Life is that it’s volunteer-driven and staff-supported,” she said, “so our teams are really the ones that lead the way. The Clinton Township team has tons of combined experience. They have lots of time and knowledge under their belts, which should be very comforting for any newcomers to know.”

For more information on the Relay for Life of Clinton Township kickoff rally, contact Emily Karlichek at (248) 663-3421 or at To start a team or make a donation, visit