Northern Berkshire Relay For Life Raises Thousands

By Melanie RancourtSpecial to iBerkshires
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A week has passed since the closing ceremonies took place for the Relay For Life of Northern Berkshire at noon on May 30 at Noel Field Athletic Complex. Participants are rested, camping supplies are put away, and the area around the track looks perfectly normal.

The result: $124,000 raised for the battle against cancer.

"It was amazing to be a part of the 25th anniversary of Relay For Life," said Cheryl Cantarella, a  co-chairman for this year's event. "It was inspiring to be a part of something that began with one volunteer."

Canterella knows the high cost of the deadly disease. "I originally began Relaying in honor of my sister-in-law Stefanie Levesque, who died of breast cancer in 2008," she said "To date, I have lost four family members to this dreaded disease and I continue to Relay to try to end this trend."

At the opening ceremony on Friday, May 29, it was explained to the hundreds of participants that nationwide Relay For Life grew out of a grassroots effort of a Tacoma, Wash., man 25 years ago — Dr. Gordy Klatt.  

This past weekend in western New England alone, there were 31 more Relay events taking place. The Central/South Berkshire event will take place on the weekend of June 19-20 at Onota Lake in Pittsfield.  

Many teams in the area continue to hand in money to support the event and boost their team total. 

"I arrived home after the event and there were more envelopes that were dropped off at my home office," said Laura Baran, American Cancer Society staff partner and community executive of income and development for the Berkshire County area. "The grand total of $116,000 that was announced at closing ceremonies as risen to $124,000."  

In a trying economy, every participant, every team and every local business donated what they could and it really showed. Adding to the success of this year's event were two new strategies that were introduced to raise funds.  

Adjacent to the Relay store, a basket drawing was set up and was an overwhelming success. Teams donated theme baskets ranging from movies, sports, baby, school supplies, canned goods, lobster dinners, a gift card hanging basket, scratch tickets and many, many more.  

Heather Benlin, Relay store and basket-drawing chairman, was pleased she that the basket-raffle concept was a success.

"I have personally seen it set up in other Relay events that I have attended," Benlin said. "Northern Berkshire teams did an amazing job and thanks to them the event profited hundreds, if not thousands more than it would have."

The success was so great that the 2010 planning committee is considering making the basket drawing its own committee. 

Another new feature of this year's Relay event was brought by Denning Entertainment of North Adams. Mark Denning graciously donated his time for the entire 18 hours of the event. As an added bonus, Denning took paid requests for music and helped raise almost $1,000, all of which as donated back to the event. 

Organizers want to give a special thanks to emcee Bill Popp for helping out with all the ceremonies again this year, Mayor John Barrett III for speaking at the opening ceremony and Dr. Paul Rosenthal for speaking at the Fight Back ceremony on Saturday morning.  

Community events such as this that take nine months to plan could not happen without donations from "gold" sponsors. This year's planning committee also wanted to give special thanks to the city of North Adams, Berkshire Health Systems, Berkshire Hematology/Oncology, the Berkshire Mall, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Northern Berkshire Healthcare, The Range, North Adams Transcript, Time Warner Cable/Capital News 9 and Vox Radio Group.  

Team Wrap Up for this year's event will take place at The Range on Wednesday, July 8 at 6 p.m. All teams are encouraged to attend. Awards will be given to the top teams, top participants and top companies.  Light refreshments will be served and proceeds form every round of golf played that night will be donated to the event by owner David Bond.  

"Relay For Life is a life-changing experience. For anyone that has never been to an event like this you are missing out," said Stephanie Therrien, Walk Talk and T-Shirt Committee chairman.

Planning for the 2010 Northern Berkshire Relay For Life event will begin in August. Anyone interested in joining the planning committee should contact Laura Baran at 413-664-4202 or at
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