Making a Statement
Every year more than 4 million people in 20 countries participate in a Relay for Life event - helping in the fight against cancer. While those events are typically held over a 24-hour period, the American Cancer Society has begun a new program bringing relays to the workplace. Last week more than a 1,000 people from one of Rhode Island’s largest, and best-known companies, left their desks to walk in an on-site relay. Jim Hummel talks with some of those who joined in.
For more information about Relay for Life, click here.
On a crisp autumn morning dozens of people set out to make a statement that millions of others around the world make with them every year. By the end of this day more than a thousand people will participate in a local Relay for Life event in Woonsocket, to raise funds and awareness in the fight against cancer.
Goodrow: ``It’s the No. 1 fundraiser in the world.’’
Howard Goodrow of the American Cancer Society says the 30-year old event includes four million people in 20 countries taking part every year. The Relay for Life events are typically staged over a 24-hour period, with teams taking shifts.
But this event has a twist: the relay is being held at the headquarters of CVS Health - with more than a third of the employees who work in three separate buildings taking time out of their work day to circle the campus with a unified message.
Goodrow: ``People hear `relay’ and they think: do we have to run? Is this something I really have to run? But no it’s really just survivors, caregivers, friends, family getting together to celebrate life. And to celebrate those people who have fought the disease and who have lost and those who have fought it and are beating it today. We have started over the last year trying to integrate Relay for Life into corporate settings. Folks from the corporate world don’t necessarily see what we do in the communities, so we wanted to bring that sense of sprit and survivorship and well-being to the corporate setting.
Boone: ``There’s not a person in this building who doesn’t know or is touched by cancer.’’
CVS Health’s Eileen Howard Boone helped lead the charge and says the company tried a similar `on campus’ event in Arizona that drew about 400 people earlier this year.
Boone: ``All they have to do is walk out of their offices, join a team and walk around the building, and alk around the course.’’
And 1,200 of the 3,000 people who work at headquarters did, raising more than $34,000 in one day. CVS set up walking courses for each of its three main buildings, located on separate parts of the 250-acre campus.
The participants included Diane Bourque, a 25-year employee in the company’s IT department, whose father died from cancer.
Bourque: ``This is one of the first on-campus events, it allows people to kind of leave their desks for a short period of time, come in an participate and feel like they’re engaged in what’s going on.’’
Hummel: ``And is that what was attractive for you?’’
Bourque: ``Yeah, we really just asked people to donate one half hour of your time and come and participate. And we got some sunshine so we’re happy about that.’’
Tami-Lynn White is a cancer survivor who was on the committee that organized the event. It has been four years since White had surgery for breast cancer and while she has wanted to do a Relay event - the timing had never been right - until now.
White: ``I was really happy that they’re doing this, this is an honor to all of us who are surviving. I just think it’s a marvelous idea, I think that many corporations or I think it should be a staple of what they do. do. I think it’s easier for people to be able to do this, especially in the work place. They’re not taking a whole night out their family life or away from maybe young children that they can’t bring to the relay for life. I think it’s a great idea they’re doing this and I hope they keep doing this each year.
Hummel: ``When you wear that sash it send a message.’’
White: ``It does, it sends a big message. I look around and I see a lot of sashes and I think wow so many people have been affected by this, any type of cancer. But we’re amongst a big group, we should be proud that we’re here.’’
A common theme at Relay for Life gatherings is the luminaria set up near the course and this event is no different with dozens of people writing personalized messages that everybody passed on the way to the course.
Goodrow: ``Most of our events are overnight, so that’s a big difference. I don’t think we’re going to see any tents set up here today. That’s probably the main difference but in terms of the feel of the event and the excitement around the event, it crosses both ways.’’
Goodrow said CVS’s decision to remove tobacco products from all of its stores made this event a great fit for the company with the American Cancer Society
Goodrow: ``We lose about 160,000 people a year from lung cancer, most of those incidences are caused by tobacco. It’s the only product that if you use it the way they ask you to use it, has a good chance of killing you.’’
Boone: ``It has far exceeded our expectations, we were hoping for a couple of hundred people and so far we already have 1,000 people signed up.’’
So will this be a model for other companies?
Goodrow: ``It’s not going to be right for everybody - but on a campus like this where you have so many individuals here, it’s absolutely a great fit. And we’d love to do more of them across the country’’
In Woonsocket, Jim Hummel for The Rhode Island Spotlight