Relay for Life invites people to come ‘aboard for a cure’

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 18, 2015

 From left, Macomb Township residents Julia Danis, 7, Dehlia DeRiemaker, 10, and Angela Danis, 10, carry luminarias at last year’s Shelby Township Relay for Life at River Bends Park.

From left, Macomb Township residents Julia Danis, 7, Dehlia DeRiemaker, 10, and Angela Danis, 10, carry luminarias at last year’s Shelby Township Relay for Life at River Bends Park.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The ninth annual Shelby Township Relay for Life will take place at River Bends Park from 10 a.m. May 16 to 10 a.m. May 17 in an effort to raise funds for cancer research, support cancer survivors and commemorate those who have died.

So far, the local event has raised more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society and all forms of cancer. The 24-hour relay event, in which one member from each team walks on a track at all times during the event, is the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser.

The theme this year is “all aboard for a cure,” a wide-ranging theme that allows teams to deck out their campsites in anything water-related.

Shelby Township residents Stephanie Haist and Nicole Vitale, who both graduated from Utica High School in 2012, have been on the Shelby Relay for Life Committee for the last two years. They have performed as cheerleaders on the sidelines during past survivor laps, in which cancer survivors loop around the track.

Haist and Vitale began participating with a Spanish teacher’s team and then became more involved. They came up with this year’s theme.

“The theme was kind of a work in progress,” Vitale said. “Last year, the theme was rock and roll, and before that, it was racecars. We wanted to do a theme that was easier for everyone to decorate for.”

Haist said they were inspired by a previous homecoming at Utica High School.

Lauren Conn and her mother, Margie Conn, founded the Shelby Township Relay for Life after Margie beat breast cancer. After a nearly two-year battle, Margie opted to have a double mastectomy on May 5, 2005. Lauren took over as the promotions chairperson last year.

“It’s going really good, but we’re still definitely looking for more teams, volunteers and survivors,” Lauren said. “We definitely want as many survivors as we can get out there.”

She said the committee’s goal is to have 53 teams this year. Last year, she said 42 teams participated, which included 623 people and at least 115 cancer survivors. Together, they raised almost $160,000.

The next team captain meeting is set to take place at 7 p.m. April 16 in the township municipal building’s upstairs boardroom, located at 52700 Van Dyke Ave., south of 24 Mile Road.

“(The April meeting) will be a pretty big one, especially since (teams) will be able to start picking campsites,” Lauren said.

River Bends Park is located at 5700 22 Mile Road, west of Shelby Road.

For more information, call the American Cancer Society at (248) 663-3404, email christa.branchick@cancer.org, or visit www.relayforlife.org/shelbytownshipmi.

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