It's game on at Relay in Yellowknife

Relay For Life team Mel's Army

Theresa Wolfe and Heather Warner of Yellowknife, NT, have been volunteering together on their local Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life event-planning committee for years. Every year, they work hard to bring together teams from the community, plan engaging events and raise critical money in support of people living with cancer in the Northwest Territories and across Canada.

This year, they’re kicking it up a notch. After Theresa’s Relay team, The Dream Team, earned the top-fundraising spot by bringing in more than $23,000 last year, Heather’s team, Mel’s Army, saw a unique opportunity to amp up the fun at Relay For Life.

The newly formed Mel’s Army has thrown down the gauntlet with a fundraising challenge aimed at The Dream Team – both teams are competing to each raise an impressive $25,000 for this year’s Relay For Life.

The literal Dream Team 

Theresa can barely remember a time when she wasn’t part of Relay For Life. She began as the Team Captain for her workplace team, and eventually captained a team in honour of a close friend living with cancer. Now, she captains the aptly named Dream Team – a team of the most committed and enthusiastic former Team Captains and volunteers from the Yellowknife Relay.

Her requirement to join the team? Every participant must independently raise at least $1,000.

“Not every team aims that high, but I think having a specific goal – having a requirement of each team member – makes them more accountable,” says Theresa.

Theresa and her teammates are not only motivated by the numbers, but they’re also motivated by their own experiences with cancer. Theresa’s involvement as a cancer fighter began when her uncle passed away of bone cancer. Her young cousins had just lost their dad, and, despite being far away, she wanted to help somehow. Years later, her Relay team was ignited by the relapse of a close friend’s breast cancer.

“Everyone has a story. I love Relay because we can remember all the people we’ve lost, but we also hear the good news – we hear from the people who survive,” says Theresa. 

With Theresa’s innovative fundraising coaching, she and her 13 team members met and surpassed their $1,000 fundraising goal with ease in 2015.

One of her most successful tactics is using social media and directing people to her Personal Fundraising Page, where they can easily donate to her online.

“I’ll say something like ‘Everyone who knew me when I had big hair in the 80s, please donate $20 to my Relay team!’ And then I’ll tag people in the post. People really respond when you specifically ask them for a donation. It’s more successful than a general ask,” says Theresa.

When asked how she felt about the fundraising challenge Heather’s team has thrown her way, Theresa had a message to share with Mel’s Army.

“You tell them it’s game on.”

Putting the fun back in fundraising

Mel’s Army may be new to Relay, but their participants have been around the block a few times. Eleven of the 14 team members are or were Relay volunteers and committee members. 

The team’s namesake, Melanie, was one of these former committee members and is the reason behind why they are aiming high to raise $25,000 this year. Melanie had long been an active Relayer in Yellowknife and made her presence felt among the teams, volunteers and staff. 

Last year, at the age of 53, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour, bringing an abrupt stop to her Relay involvement and a dark cloud over the Relay committee. Mel’s Army is Relaying in her honour so they can remember their friend and make sure others won’t need to face what Melanie went through.

“Melanie had such a profound influence on Relay in Yellowknife,” says Heather. “She was integral in changing how Relay runs. Her efforts focused on keeping teams involved throughout the year and at the event itself, and really making Relay fun.”

In that same spirit, Mel’s Army has challenged The Dream Team in an effort to boost fundraising, get more teams involved and show everyone what a difference every donation can make when you bring it all together.

“I think a lot of people get overwhelmed with fundraising because they think, ‘I need to raise all this money.’ If you make fundraising fun again, the pressure goes away. Every donation, big or small, makes a difference in the end,” says Heather. To hit their big target, Heather and her team are doing small, manageable things like hosting a weekly bake sale that raises about $200 per week.

Heather is eager to come out on top, and upon hearing Theresa’s friendly taunt, she couldn’t help but shoot back. 

“Tell Theresa to bring it.”

Everybody wins

Friendly competition is always an excellent motivator, but both teams know there won’t be a loser in this challenge.

“We’re all friends here,” says Theresa. “If we end up with two teams that each raise more than $20,000 at Relay, it’s not a bad thing to be in second place.”

Motivate your teammates and fellow Relay teams to do more than they think is possible. Present a fundraising challenge of your own and watch as you meet and beat your initial goal to make an even bigger impact in the fight for life. To announce your challenge and shout out to specific fundraisers, post to your local Relay For Life Facebook page.

Back to the March 2016 issue of Relay Rap