As of today (September 2017), I’d say I’ve been to over 30 Relay For Life events (mostly in Nevada, with a few in Arizona and Utah), numerous Relay trainings and more committee meetings and team rallies than I can count. I guess you could say that I’ve been sucked into the grind of Relay, and I absolutely love it. Relay has changed my life (for the better). I’ve been afforded the opportunity to give back to my hometown community and serve a population that is for the most part humble, generous, kind and so very appreciative.
My Relay “career” (you might call it) started back in 2009 when a co-worked invited me to be a participant on her Relay team. Little did I know what Miss Ann was getting me into! I had never been to a Relay, in fact I had never even heard of Relay before. I showed up to the event and had a blast! Between all the laps around the track, the great entertainment, catching up with friends who I knew from my softball world and experiencing my first luminaria ceremony, I just had an awesome first-time experience. Not quite sure how much money I raised that year, but I know it was enough to receive an incentive gift because I was invited to our local ACS (American Cancer Society) office to do the paperwork in order to get some kind of Relay swag item.
2010 – Fast forward a year and Miss Ann once again invited me to be on her Relay team in 2010 (because that’s what you’re trained to do when you sit on the event leadership committee/team, which she was a part of). Somehow, she had a way about her that made people want to say yes when she asked them to do anything. Looking back, she was really the only one who could get any of the people in our office to come out and support this cause, specifically day of.
2011 – In 2011, Miss Ann persuaded me to become a team captain (because remember it’s hard not to say yes when Miss Ann asks you to do something, especially for this people pleaser). So I attended team captain meetings that year and started growing my Relay family. I invited some friends and co-workers to come out on relay day. Didn’t have a huge team, but we had a presence on the track for a good portion of the event. Can’t be 100% sure, but I believe this was the first year I made the #GrandClub, and I was pretty stoked!
2013 – I fell off the Relay bandwagon in 2012. Not exactly sure what was going on in my life, but I’m pretty sure it involved playing a lot of sports and trying to find my way in this world. But in March of 2013, I threw myself back into Relay 110%. Miss Ann had lost her long and devastating battle with cancer and I felt the need to Relay in her honor that year.
Probably a God thing of course, but I happened to be playing on a softball team with my friend Tina, who was already registered for the Las Vegas event that year (pure happenstance because Tina was a school friend and had not ever participated in a Relay until that year). So I joined her team after hearing of Miss Ann’s passing, and I’ve been a Relay groupie ever since.
Although I didn’t stay at the event all night, I was there the next morning for closing ceremonies. I ran into one of the ACS staff members and after having a quick chat with her, I sought out Chris, the event lead, and told her she had me to use in whatever capacity she needed me in for the 2014 event season.
2014 – As head gopher for the 2014 Relay For Life of Las Vegas, I did a lot. This is the year I really started to expand my volunteer role with ACS (helped out at Team Rally Meetings, eventually creating the PowerPoints for those meetings, securing in-kind donations, and recruiting a co-captain for my Relay team (@Cindi_Kay who was also named honorary event co-chair with me this particular year). In 2014, I was also given the privilege of putting together the Luminaria slideshow for the Event which just furthered my aspirations to continue to grow as a leader for this cause. Seeing and working with the stories and pictures of those who had lost their battle, continuing to fight and hearing from people who just want to extinguish cancer is truly inspirational. Unexpectedly, I was honored with the Committee MVP award at the Relay event and that was just an amazing feeling!
2015 – ACS modified the Event Leadership Team model and I decided to join the “Core 4” as the Fund the Mission (Cure) Lead for Las Vegas. We also went through a few changes locally with the merging of a couple relays. Although we had some major challenges throughout the year, we ended up having a pretty fantabulous relay event at an amazing venue!
2016 – At the beginning of the 2016 Relay season I was invited to be a part of the Area Leadership Team (ALT). Not sure if we laughed, prepared for trainings or mentored more, but when we were doing our “job” we supported RFL events in southern Nevada, southern Utah and northern Arizona. Being a part of the ALT is where my participation and leadership in RFL started to really grow.
Because I wasn’t quite sure exactly what the time commitment would be for this new ALT task, I decided to step down from a “Core 4” event lead position and stepped into the Fundraising Lead role. It was great fun planning and attending restaurant fundraising nights, panty parties, bake sales and other events that helped us bring in money for our event (not to mention the ALT event where I was introduced to Bad Beat Brewing, a local brewery offering the ability to play the original Nintendo game system while drinking beer and sitting in a bean bag chair – that was just awesome!).
2017 – Well in 2017 I moved into the lead of our Area Leadership Teambecause my buddy Chris and her family decided to move back home to the San Diego area. That was a sad time, but also lit a fire in me to start growing as more of a leader personally. I began to take my role a little more seriously, like really starting to adult – reading more leadership books, listening to podcasts and participating in a lot more webinars.
Without going into too much detail, I took over the Luminaria Lead position, and further into the season became the Recognition Lead for the Relay For Life of Las Vegas. Had a fun, memorable year attending all of the southern Nevada and Reno/Sparks events.
2017 Major Highlights: 1) Breaking my arm and going purple for 5 weeks in a cast; 2) introducing Mr. Cole Wyatt to Relay at the Tri-State event; and 3) experiencing the sheer awesomeness of the youth volunteers and participants at the West Youth Relay (Spring Valley High School). Words can’t do that experience justice, so I’m not even going to try!
2018 – I’ll be serving as the Recognition Lead for the 2018 Relay For Life of Las Vegas and I am super excited to see what we can accomplish for our “Vintage Vegas” themed event being held at The LINQ this year. Our committee is growing and we’ve already begun the brainstorming process and have some cool ideas ready to be implemented. I’m also setting my personal fundraising goal to become an All Star Fundraiser ($2,500) next year, so I can’t wait until September 1st when registration begins #BringOn2018!
My Relay family has grown to well over 100 members and I continue to add more at each Relay For Life event I attend. I’ve grown as a person, and I’d like to say I’ve become somewhat of a leader in the Relay For Life world. Currently, I continue to serve on the event leadership team of the Relay For Life of Las Vegas, as well as mentor other Relayers in my position as an Area Leadership Lead. For the 2018 year, I have also been added to the Desert Coastal RFL Area Coaching & Development team (and event mentor for the southern Nevada relays). I’m looking forward to the learning, personal growth and friendships that I will continue to gain as I venture forward in my Relay journey.
My passion is to help grow the Relay For Life movement in southern Nevada and beyond so that we can one day live in a world where people won’t have to hear the words, “You have cancer.”
I’ve been to too many funerals and had too many people in my life affected by this horrific disease to just sit and do nothing! I truly believe it is an honor to help Celebrate, Remember & Fight Back against cancer alongside all of my Relay family.
Thank you for taking a look at my Relay story. I’d love to connect and hear yours; contact me or leave a comment below!
Here’s to many more miles around the track! Sara