Local relay aims to grow donations

Cancer survivors walk the survivor lap during Gilroy Relay for Life at Christmas Hill Park. File photo.

The vision is quite clear for the American Cancer Society, which wants to double its contributions in 2018 to better support cancer research and services to those stricken with the life-altering disease.

To do so, the nonprofit organization has been instituting some changes to reduce costs in other areas, including trimming staff, to allow for funds raised to flow into their main objective of finding a cure.

“Nationwide, we have a pretty ambitious goal to double the amount of money that goes to research,” said Julie Shaver, Executive Director of Community Engagement, noting that ACS is “the largest funder of cancer research in the world outside of the U.S. government.”

Locally, Gilroy and Morgan Hill, which had organized separate Relay events, have merged, under the direction of ACS, to form the Relay For Life of South County. The 24-hour walkathon, which is ACS’s largest annual fundraiser with communities partaking in Relays throughout country, will begin 10am May 19 and run until 10am May 20 at Morgan Hill Community Park, located at 171 W. Edmundson Ave. The continuous overnight event calls for at least one member of a team to be walking the circuit at all times.

“ACS is still committed to finding a cure for cancer. In order to do that, we realize the amount of dollars going toward research would have to double,” said Dawn Ullmark, Volunteer Area Relay For Life Co-Lead and Volunteer Board Member for the Silicon Valley Central Coast. “Over the last 10 years, there have been a lot of advances in cancer research. This is a very exciting time and critical time to make some more pretty big advances in that area.”

Forty-seven ACS-funded researchers have gone on to win the Nobel Prize and “no other organization can say that,” according to Shaver.

South County residents are doing their part with 38 participating teams already raising nearly $31,000 toward a goal of $113,000 heading into the 2018 event, which will remain at Community Park after initial plans to move it to the Outdoor Sports Complex. To get involved, visit relayforlife.org/SouthCountyCA.

“We’ve seen really positive feedback in our mergers (of community Relays). Many communities are excited to come together for a united cause,” said Nick Pauliukonis, Community Development Manager for ACS West Region. “Helping people facing cancer as well as their families continues to be one of ACS’s top priorities.”

One such area ACS has expanded is its Road to Recovery program, which offers free rides to cancer patients to and from treatments. Last year, ACS was able to assist 1,200 patients in Santa Clara County, including 1,500 free rides to treatment, according to Shaver. ACS also has a 24 hour/7 day per week Hotline (1-800-ACS-2345).

“For us to be able to get the word out that these services are available is really important,” Shaver said. “Every amount of research that the U.S. government has invested in has been decreasing. That is why ACS is taking this bold goal in doubling the amount of research we are funding.”

In helping to get the word out, ACS has established an advocacy arm called The Cancer Action Network, which “does a lot of work at the federal level to ensure funding research remains a top priority of our government.”


  • What: American Cancer Society Relay For Life of South County to raise funds for cancer research
  • When: 10am May 19 to 10am May 20
  • Where: Morgan Hill Community Park (171 W. Edmundson Ave)
  • How: relayforlife.org/SouthCountyCA or facebook.com/relayforlifesouthcounty