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Relay for Life: How to Promote the Cause and Participate

Cancer doesn’t care if we oppose it or not, but those suffering from it do care. So, to make a difference, we can participate in fundraisers and raise money for cancer treatments and further research.

One of these amazing cancer fundraisers is called Relay For Life.

Relay for Life is a fundraiser put on by the American Cancer Society. It is an overnight event (because cancer doesn’t sleep) that celebrates survivorship of cancer and also strives to raise funds for research. People gather into teams, usually grouped by families or associations, to tackle the goals. My entire family gets together and participates, as well as a large number of other families in my area. Sometimes teachers from the same school district form a team, and I’ve also seen school sports teams group together. Participants are usually ready and signed up months prior to the event, so they use their time to raise money to donate to the American Cancer Society.

Typically, Relay for Life teams make or design personalized t-shirts to distinguish themselves during the run. This helps get the word out to others, and it reminds participants that they’ve accomplished something great!

What happens at Relay for Life runs?

My cousins and me at a Relay for Life event

My cousins and me at a Relay for Life event

This event is more than running, although that’s the main part! The American Cancer Society plans different activities for every hour of the night to make things a little bit more interesting. The night starts off with a motivational speech, then a kick off for the walk. The first lap is run or walked by any cancer survivors who are present, and then everyone can join in and get the night started.

It gets exciting once all participants start running or walking around the track! The event lasts from 6 o’ clock at night until 6 o’ clock the next morning, but each team only needs to have at least one person out on the track at all times throughout the night.

It sounds draining, I know, but it is honestly one of the best experiences! I now Relay every single year, and I have a lot of fun each time. There is more to the night than just walking or running around the track.

Also, many teams have small tents set up to sell food or products they may have, and all of the money they raise goes directly to cancer research. Companies are present, too, and some set up tents to give away products that help Relay participants get through a long night of walking.

Why do Relay for Life giveaways matter?

Participants forget to bring necessities with them, so it’s always appreciated when companies are there to come to the rescue! Yes, I speak from experience.

Popular Relay for Life giveaways include:

Pedometers are my favorite giveaway item at Relay for Life!

Pedometers are my favorite giveaway item at Relay for Life!

Pedometers are my personal favorite! They are awesome to have during the run because it’s kind of fun to compete against one another and see who walks or runs the best distance — although we are all there for the same reason.

Not all promotional items at the event are given away, though. Sometimes, you have to work for them! One of the activities held at this fundraiser is a Bags tournament. The winner of the Bags tournament wins a Bags set with the American Cancer Society logo (last year, my brother and his buddy won this tournament and received the customized bag set). They also have different games and contests, like a water balloon toss, obstacle courses, cake walks, pie-eating contests, limbo, Relay Bingo, and many more. The winners of all these contests receive products like tote bags, blankets, wrist bands, sports equipment, t-shirts, etc.

It is activities like these that really keep the night going!

Why should you participate in Relay for Life this year?

You should participate in Relay for Life for a number of reasons. My family and I Relay to raise money for further cancer research, but we also do it in honor of both of my grandparents that we lost to cancer. Some people Relay to raise money for a loved one who is currently battling cancer, but there are also plenty of people who help because it is a good cause (and it’s a lot of fun).

I am so glad that I run for Relay. It is one Friday night out of my life that I get to step away from the party scene and do something that can affect so many lives, and I have fun while doing it. I highly recommend that you join this organization — you will not regret it. Just be sure to bring plenty of coffee and have nothing huge planned for the next day, because you will be exhausted.

Visit Relay for Life’s website to find out more…or, better yet, to sign up for an event this year!

What do you think? Have you ever participated in a Relay for Life run? Which giveaways are the most helpful to you, and how have you found success with fundraising?

Image credit to Jaimie Smith and


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  1. Cybernetic SAM

    Great post Jaimie! I did Relay for Life once for a company I worked for. It was a lot of fun, I love the neat little races they had, my favorite was the 80’s hour and we all got to dress up and they played 80’s music at like 2 am!

    • Jaimie Smith

      Oh yeah! It is super cool that they have different themes every hour. Its cool that your company relayed. I love seeing all the different groups of people that come together to do this.

  2. Jen

    I’ve always wanted to sign up for this, but I’m afraid I would fall asleep half-way through. I guess if I was with friends and family keeping me awake I would be okay though.

    Thanks for the info Jaimie!

    • Jaimie Smith

      Oh yeah, it is surprisingly easy staying up to do this. But only because you’re constantly doing something. If you were just sitting there the whole time, then yeah, you’d prolly fall asleep. But there is always something going on. If there is no activity going on at the moment, then you’re just walking and talking to people. I am used to staying up so I wasn’t worried, but my mom shocks us all when she’s the one with the most energy thoughout the night lol.
      Monsters also do the trick. not exactly good for you. my mom HATES when we drink these, but she allows it for this night ๐Ÿ™‚
      You should def look into doing it Jen! you would love it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I did Relay for Life one year during college, and I had a lot of fun. The luminaries were my favorite part. It was very moving.

    I feel like someone gave me an imprinted water bottle at some point in the night, which considering all the walking I was doing, I definitely appreciated it.

    • Jaimie Smith

      Oh yeah, water bottles are key to have with that much walking.
      And yeah the luminaries are def a very emotional part of the night. It is cool to experience, though

  4. Amy Swanson

    This sounds really cool, Jaimie! I’ve never participated in a ‘Relay for Life’ event, but anyone I know who has done it says it’s a lot of fun and is amazed at how moving it is. I’d love to participate in it one year, just have to psych myself up to the staying up all night part of the commitment, haha.

    • Jaimie Smith

      Haha! Amy it is honestly a blast!! I am so glad I participate in it. That is my main good deed of the year and the time I “give back” the most. So its cool that with all that hard work, I am also having a great time, so it barely seems like work.
      You def should look into participating one year, I think you would love it. I know you love your coffee, so just keep coffee with you all night and you’ll be good ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Jaimie Smith

    Oh yeah, water bottles are key to have with that much walking.
    And yeah the luminaries are def a very emotional part of the night. It is cool to experience, though.

  6. Bret Bonnet

    Nice shorts! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Can I borrow them? Do you think they’ll fit?

    • Jaimie Smith

      HAHAHA! that was our first year doing it, we wore the Relay Tshirt instead of our own, so we all had matching shorts with our team name on the back to distinguish our team.

      I suppose if you reallllllly want them I can pass them down to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Jill Tooley

    Nice post, Jaimie! I’ve done one Relay for Life event, and I’m sure I’ll participate in more soon. It was a lot of fun, and I didn’t have any issues staying up late (surprisingly). It’s cool that you know someone who won the Bags prize! I’d love to have one of those so I can practice for our summer tourney here at QLP. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Jaimie Smith

      I am glad you had fun doing your Relay for Life Event! I love Relay! Its an awesome way to give back and have fun at the same time!

      And Yeah the bags set was pretty cool. My brother and his friend won it, and they each both already have a bag set so they just gave the set to my mom because she loved them. It had the relay logo painted on them, and since she is very actively involved with it, she was very excited when they won them for her! ๐Ÿ™‚

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