Dufferin Relay For Life raises $51,000 to assist cancer research

June 16, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

The playing field behind Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS) was transformed into a giant beacon of hope and inspiration last Friday as it played host to the seventh annual Dufferin Relay for Life.

More than 250 local residents came together this year to make the event one of the best-attended in recent memory, raising $51,000 in the process. In confirming this year’s fundraising total with the Citizen on Monday, event organizer Janine Grin – a teacher at ODSS – said she was incredibly proud of the community’s efforts this year.

“We’re absolutely thrilled with our final fundraising total. Once again, Orangeville stepped up in a big way, coming out and supporting us in our new location at ODSS,” Ms. Grin said. “It truly was a magical evening.”

The ODSS Bears 33-person staff team was the number one fundraiser on the night, bringing in $7,686, while Ms. Grin made sure to mention that Andy’s Bosom Buddies – a three-person community team – came in a close second, raising just over $7,500.

First launched in 1999, the local Relay for Life is the Canadian Cancer Society’s premier fundraising event, with all proceeds raised going towards supporting those battling the disease and researching for a cure. Last year, the organization held 432 events across the country, raking in an unprecedented $28 million.

The evening itself though served as something of a commemoration of the life of former ODSS principal Darryl Kirkland, who passed away on January 27 following a 4 1/2-year battle with cancer. In the months leading up to the event, Ms. Grin spoke of Mr. Kirkland’s overreaching influence on the school community and how he inspired both staff and students alike to be the best they can be. On the night, she delivered a touching speech highlighting a conversation she had with Darryl shortly after ODSS was confirmed as hosting this year’s Relay.

“Relay is something that mattered to Darryl. When he first learned Relay would be happening at ODSS this year, he could not contain his excitement. He could not have been any prouder or more thrilled,” Ms. Grin said. “He said we needed to make it big and, with all of your help, we have done just that. Darryl always had hope and that’s really what Relay is all about – hope.”

ODSS Principal Bill Lenny also remembered “his friend” in a speech that really resonated with those in attendance.

“Tonight, I want to pay tribute to the wonderful and strangely uncomplicated man that was Darryl Kirkland. He was an intelligent, inspiring and passionate, progressive educator and an energetic, funny and prank loving friend,” Mr. Lenny said. “We all felt horrible for Darryl in that strange way I think we all do when you hear someone has gotten a cancer diagnosis. We didn’t know what to expect. Would he be back at work? Would this be the end of Mr. Sunshine? Would the harsh realities of life take an edge off that inspiring attitude? Well, in a word, no.”

He added, “Darryl, in his 4 1/2-year fight, had three major surgeries, 30 to 40 chemo treatments, a heart attack and a broken wrist. But, during those 4 1/2 years he also helped countless people all deal with their own cancer fights and continued to inspire those around… Darryl continued to make everyone around him better.”

Darryl’s wife Christine and children Josh and Emma then led those in attendance through the ceremonial luminary service, whereby loved ones light a candle to remember those that have passed away due to cancer.

The Relay took place between 6 p.m. and midnight on Friday, and Ms. Grin noted there were several other events and activities ongoing over the course of the evening. ODSS’ Business Leadership Class came together to host a lip sync battle on the main stage, while representatives from Citrus Dance Inc., Annemarie’s Dance Academy and the Orangeville Dojo were on hand to showcase their skills in special performances and presentations.

Then there was the Relay itself. For six hours, hundreds of community members stuck to their guns and ran the numbers up on the internal pedometers, completing lap after lap in the name of raising money for cancer research.

“It was a great night. Everyone was happy – every single person I saw walking around that track was smiling. There were high-fives all around. There were hugs, there were tears and there was laughter, it was a truly special evening,” Ms. Grin said. “Cancer is something you come together for, united to fight against and we really saw that this year with Relay. Everyone was there for the same reason and it helped to create a really memorable atmosphere.”

With this year’s event now in the rear view mirror, Ms. Grin stated attentions would soon turn towards planning next year’s eighth Relay, and it’s one she hinted could once again take place at ODSS.

“This was such a special evening and such an incredible way to remember Darryl… I can’t think of too many better ways to host and celebrate Relay for Life in Dufferin County,” Ms. Grin said.


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