Relay kick-off postponed, annual event in limbo
by Robert Joseph Baker | November 7, 2017 5:43 pm
The Clarendon County Relay for Life Committee met Monday night for what members thought would be a discussion of the season’s kick-off, which was scheduled for Nov. 13 at First Baptist Church of Manning.
What members got, however, was a complete shock: A deputy director told committee members that the American Cancer Society had cut 65 positions, and that the organization had decided to offer “different options” for those events providing a “lower return on investment.”
According to a source on the committee who wished to remain anonymous, the group was given three options.
* Merge with Sumter County Relay for Life. However, with Sumter’s event being held at Hillcrest Middle School in Dalzell, that would put Clarendon participants traveling anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to participate.
* Hold Relay for Life as usual with no physical support from the American Cancer Society. No director would be present for Relay Committee or Team Captains’ meetings. Should the Committee have questions, the American Cancer Society would be available by phone, but no physical support would be given. Some ACS materials would still be available for use at Relay events.
* Hold Relay completely alone.
“After any of these three options, at the end of Relay, we would send the (American Cancer Society) the funds raised,” the source said.
American Cancer Society Regional Communications and Marketing Vice-President Chris Green said in an emailed statement that the organization has a responsibility to be good “stewards of the dollars raised toward our mission to save lives from cancer.”
“The American Cancer Society values the resources and leadership that volunteers put into making Relay for Life a meaningful, fun experience and the volunteer-staff partnerships that ensure event success in many communities,” Green said.
Green said that volunteers who want to support the American Cancer Society have many resources available to put their passion into action.
“For some communities, Relay for Life will still be the primary fundraiser, but for others, the ACS is committed to finding the best fit for that community and exploring whether other fundraising activities might be a better option.”
A manager with the Columbia office who wished to remain anonymous said that the Clarendon event had raised about $39,000 thus far in the 2017-18 season.
“It’s not like we’re leaving them,” she said. “We’re going to be there to help them along the way. But they need to decide in which way they want to be managed. If they feel like they can do it on their own, with remote staff and the ACS website, they can do that. If they need a manager coming in there on a monthly basis, we can help with that. We would still help them with supplies whatever path they choose.”
She also said that she had personally volunteered to help the Clarendon Committee as its liaison.
Just 11 years ago, Clarendon County ranked No. 15 in the entire United States for monies raised based on population through Relay for Life. In other words, for every 1,000 residents, Clarendon County raised the 15th highest amount of money.
Totals each year from 2006 through 2011 far exceeded set goals of $150,000. In 2008, before Relay even started at 6 p.m., the fundraiser had met its $150,000 goal, ultimately raising more than $20,000 over the course of that night.
Fundraising totals from the local event, however, have dropped in recent years. While no complete total is available for the 2016 season, the 2015 event brought in a little more than $81,000.
A concern heard by many Clarendon County Relay for Life chairs throughout the years includes where the money goes after Relay for Life.
Marnie Wells, former liaison for Clarendon County, said in the late 2000s that it wasn’t an easy question to answer. She noted that about 30 percent of the money goes toward efforts at prevention and detection of cancer. Thirty-five percent, she said, was spent on research and national support; 17 percent for fundraisers; 15 percent to cancer patients themselves; and 3 percent to the society operations.
Green said initially that the kick-off had only been postponed a month, until Dec. 11. However, local committee members said that date wouldn’t work as it conflicts with Clarendon County Council and other public events.
“A change in events does not mean a change in our mission,” Green said. “ACS will continue to be available to support those who need us, and as always, we will continue to focus our efforts where we can have the greatest reach and impact.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For full disclosure, Robert Joseph Baker was a member of the Clarendon County Relay for Life Committee for several years and served as co-chairman during the 2014-15 season.