Norfolk’s annual Relay for Life fundraiser has to once again be held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Event organizers had to make the difficult decision to switch to a week of virtual events last summer because of local health guidelines. This year is no different — the event will almost be the same with a few changes, said Anita Larson, co-chair of the Relay for Life of the Norfolk Area.
The American Cancer Society announced before 2021 began that there wouldn’t be any in-person events, which include Relay for Life fundraisers around the country.
“They made that decision before vaccines,” Larson said. “In general, when it comes to honoring survivors, if they have been going through treatments, they have weakened immune systems, so we also want to err on the side of caution and make sure we are taking care of them.”
The festivities kick off Saturday, June 5, at noon, with the most significant change of this year — the addition of an online silent auction. It will run through Monday, June 14, at 6 p.m.
Bob Cheney, Relay for Life of the Norfolk Area co-chair, said the auction is something the organization wanted to work into last summer’s event, but it ran out of time as the pandemic progressed.
Members are also looking forward to hosting the Care-A-Van event again, which is the only semi in-person gathering of the week, Cheney said.
Cancer survivors and caregivers are encouraged to meet in their vehicles on Sunday, June 6, at 1:30 p.m., in the Premier Senior Marketing parking lot on the corner of Benjamin Avenue and Riverside Boulevard. At 2 p.m., the group will drive a specific route lined with cheering friends, family and members of the public.
“If we can get a few more survivors at the Care-A-Van — that would be awesome to get some people involved in that,” Cheney said.
The rest of the week from Monday, June 7, through Saturday, June 12, will be filled with themed virtual activities and challenges. Residents will be able to post photos, take monetary pledges to walk a specific distance and write personal stories online.
Norfolk’s Relay for Life has a goal to raise $50,000. The group already has $19,858 as of Tuesday.
Last year’s goal was $30,000 because it was the organization’s first virtual event. It was able to reach that goal by the end of the week. In 2019, the goal was $65,000, and the one-day event raised just over $39,000.
Larson said even though the number of teams has been decreasing over the past several years, team members continue to host Relay for Life events because of the importance of supporting area cancer survivors. The organization’s several planning committees usually start working in October to put on the fundraiser, which is in its 26th year this summer.
“The main thing that I typically hear is a thank you to the Norfolk Area Relay for Life for continuing the efforts, because the last number of years there have been a lot of additional fundraising events around Norfolk that have developed,” she said.
Larson said she hopes the pandemic has allowed people to get accustomed to online events so there will be more participation this year.
Survivors are encouraged to register online for the event at relayforlife.org/norfolkareane. Members of the public can keep up with event updates through the Relay For Life of the Norfolk Area’s Facebook page.
“Any little bit that we can raise will go to research and help support the survivors and individuals who are going through cancer treatments and recovery. Any little bit helps make a difference,” Larson said. “We are all just trying to push as hard as we can.”