PLATTSBURGH - The annual Relay for Life has officially kicked off for 2011.
According to Joan Sterling, American Cancer Society representative for Clinton and Essex counties, the goal for the Plattsburgh Relay has been increased for this year.
Last year, the cancer research fundraising event had a goal of $220,000, and ended up surpassing that with a total of $231,000. So, this year the committee is aiming for $230,000.
Although the money doesn't necessarily stay in the area, Sterling has seen ways in which it comes back. "Albany Med, which is very close to us, just received a $900,000 grant and it was something from the American Cancer Society," she explained. "At the same time, we, in our region, raised a million dollars. To me, that seems pretty close to home."
Sterling explained there are also programs in the area funded by the American Cancer Society, including mileage reimbursement and money to assist in purchasing prescription medications.
"So, the money does come back," she said. "If you need it, it does come back."
"And for all the survivors that are right here ... they're here because of the research dollars," added Sterling.
Bonnie Berry, Relay for Life committee member and breast cancer survivor, is thankful for the money going to research
"That's the important piece to me as a survivor, is that somebody was out there looking for a cure and we don't do it without having these monies," she said.
This year's Relay will see a few changes, including the new committee chairperson, Julie Stalker.
Stalker has been on the committee for the last six years, moving up to co-chair last year, alongside Mark Brown.
For Stalker, cancer is something she has seen a lot of.
"I lost my brother to cancer. He had a brain tumor. My husband actually is a survivor and both my in-laws are cancer surivors," said Stalker.
Six years ago, Stalker explained she received a phone call from a woman she didn't know, asking if she wanted to be on the Relay committee. That woman was Sterling.
"I said, 'I'm there. Whatever you want me to do, I'm there,'" recalled Stalker, who added she was a "be all, see all" person the first year.
Then, she became a part of the mission crew until last year when she co-chaired.
"I was asked to go to a summit meeting and Imet with other event chairs from around the state," said Stalker, who added Sterling encouraged her to consider taking the chair position.
"It was like, you know, why not? Jump in with both feet," she added.
Looking forward to this year's Relay, Stalker said she was "jumping out of my skin" with anticipation for the official kickoff, held at Clinton Community College Feb. 10.
"The community was so wonderful last year, and during the hard times last year we were able to reach our goal and exceed it," Stalker said. "That shows that Plattsburgh cares."
Other plans for this year's Relay includes a new team and individual fundraising club.
According to the Relay's Web site, www.relayforlife.org, the Team Fundraising Club gives team recognition during the event for reaching a fundraising level, with the lowest level being $2,500.
For individuals, each person who raises $100 receives commemorative Relay T-shirt. Each level after that, beginning at $250 will receive special gifts from Relay.
"As people raise different levels of money, they can get different levels of prizes," said Sterling. "We have T-shirts and backpacks and water bottles. Just some really cool Relay things that you cant buy at our Relay store."
Another new addition to this year's event is all team captains will receive a special maroon-colored T-shirt denoting them as a captain.
And as always, new and exciting things are being planned for the survivors, but Sterling can't let the cat out of the bag until the big day.
This year's event will be held at the Clinton County Fairgrounds June 17 to June 18
For more information or to register for Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org.
"A cure needs to be found and we need to stop losing our people," said Stalker.