After two decades of being a yearly experience in the Mingo/Pike area, the Tug Valley area will no longer be holding a traditional Relay For Life event.
That news came late last month via an email sent from the Charleston office of the American Cancer Society to Chris Dotson, who resigned her position as TVRFL event lead at the conclusion of the 2017 Relay For Life.
The ACA’s Charleston office coordinates and directs Relay For Life events in Mingo as well as a number of other southern West Virginia counties.
“To say I was surprised by the cancellation of our event would be an understatement,” Dotson said this week.
“I kind of expected there might be changes in venue and time frames, but I didn’t anticipate a total event cancellation.”
In the email, ACA Community Development Manager Holly Durham explained that while the ACA is “grateful” for the years Tug Valley’s volunteers have devoted to annual event, the ACA found it necessary to, among other things, make changes as to how it staffs and supports some events throughout the country.
Durham said the decision to end the TVRFL event was primarily due to a dwindling number of ELT (Event Leadership Team) members and teams.
“As you know, a traditional Relay For Life event is community-owned and volunteer-driven, and it takes a lot of people, time, and work to raise money and create a great event experience,” Durham wrote in the email.
“After careful consideration, we have determined that a traditional Relay For Life event will not be held in Tug Valley in 2018.”
Durham said ACA officials took “a careful look at the history of the Relay For Life of Tug Valley” and determined that other fundraising options might be more logistically realistic and attainable for Mingo County and surrounding participating communities.
“We believe there is a more efficient/impactful way for this community to support the American Cancer Society. We don’t know exactly what that looks like, so we are going to need your help figuring that out.”
Durham wrote there are several alternative “fun and creative” fundraising options in which volunteers can participate, such as “Rai$e Your Way” and “CrowdRise.” She said there are also a number of ways “to continue to Relay in completely volunteered-owned opportunities.”
“In either case, you have the flexibility to design an experience and fundraising strategy that works for you and your community, and it won’t require a traditional staff partner to help manage your effort,” the email continued.
“These new ACS platforms support many of the things that you and your community are already doing, i.e., Bark For Life and 5K races. You will have the flexibility to raise funds and support the American Cancer Society on your timeline.”
Dotson said irrespective of her resignation, the kickoff meeting held each year to make plans for the succeeding event was conducted as usual shortly after the 2017 Relay concluded. Because the 2017 Relay resulted in reaching and even exceeding its fundraising goal, and because she believes future events would have enjoyed similar success, she doesn’t believe her resignation was a major factor in the ACA’s decision.
“Just before Christmas, we got the email advising us the Tug Valley Relay would no longer have the traditional event on the field as we’ve always had, but that our community was encouraged to continue the fight against cancer by using other fundraising activities in our area,” Dotson said. “For me, Relay has always been as much about awareness and support to our community caregivers and survivors as it has been about the fundraising or even who is Event Lead.”
Dotson said although she has seen lower fundraising numbers for the past few Relay events, primarily due to the depressed economy, the effort put forth by those working for the event and the willingness of the public to contribute even in difficult economic times has had negligible if any decline.
“The sense of community support that happens during the Relay event cannot be matched,” she said. “The survivor’s banquet, the luminaria ceremony, the on-field event itself are just so special.
“While the money may not have been as much, our community spirit has never faltered. And while we can still form our own unique fundraising opportunities for the ACS program, I don’t think it will be with the same without the traditional event.”
Dotson said several teams, such as ARH, had already begun their fundraising efforts for the 2018 TVRFL when word came down that it had been cancelled.
“Although our Relay may have raised less money during recent years due to a decline in our community’s economy, I still wish it could have continued,” she said. “Because I do feel without this event less money will filter through to the ACS program.”