Two cities create new combined relay race

With the American Cancer Society pushing for more regional fundraising efforts, local organizers of the annual Relay For Life from Morgan Hill and Gilroy have combined their resources and developed the inaugural Relay For Life of South County.

“Some people go to both Relays, some people bounce between them year over year, so it is nice that we have an opportunity to create a larger relay community,” said Val Renggli, the marketing chair for the 2018 Relay for Life who is a past lead organizer for the Morgan Hill event.

The kickoff event is scheduled from 5pm to 8pm Feb. 1 at Old City Hall Restaurant, 7400 Monterey Road in Gilroy. Attendees will learn about this year’s event and how they can make a difference; meet the event leadership team; and find out what it takes to form or join a team.

Separately, the two area relay events have raised millions of dollars in recent years for cancer research.
With their efforts combined, organizers are looking forward to even more success.

“I think it was a wonderful idea to merge with Morgan Hill. The organizational meetings have gone well,” said Sabrina Thomas, this year’s event co-leader who has been involved with the Gilroy Relay for the last three years.
This year’s Relay For Life of South County (RelayForLife.org/SouthCountyCA), the American Cancer Society’s largest annual fundraiser that encompasses communities throughout the nation raising money to help with cancer research, will be held from 10am May 19 to 10am May 20 at the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Complex, 16500 Condit Road in Morgan Hill.

“I’m thrilled that our communities are coming together,” said Renggli. “I feel like there is going to be a great cross section of families and businesses that will help make our Relay a fantastic event.”

While Renggli said the change has been well-received by Morgan Hill participants, Thomas noted she’s experienced some pushback from Gilroy participants who have learned about the relay taking place at an out-of-town venue. Nonetheless, the organizers of the relays are following the directives put forth by ACS this year to streamline the charitable enterprise, according to Renggli.

“It hurts me that we don’t have much support from previous Gilroy relayers,” Thomas said. “I understand it is hard for some of the Gilroy teams to accept that we have merged. However, Morgan Hill is 12 minutes away. I don’t relay for the location. I relay for the cause.”

Thomas has asked former relayers to attend the kickoff meeting “with an open mind” and continue to support the cancer society.

In 2017, the Morgan Hill Relay raised more than $100,000, when the event washeld at Morgan Hill Community Park, and has raised $1.1 million since its inception. The Gilroy Relay has eclipsed $2 million overall in its local fundraising event, which was held at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy.

Early in 2018, there are 25 teams signed up with 67 total participants for the inaugural Relay For Life of South County. The early squads have combined to generate $4,235. Those interested in forming a team or joining one should contact Nick Pauliukonis at (925) 922-9923 to get started.

“Let’s all relay for the cause. We welcome everyone from the Gilroy and Morgan Hill communities,” Thomas said. “Let’s work together to find a cure for cancer.”

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