Fundraising continues despite Relay for Life cancellation

— Created April 22, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

For the first time in its 33-year history, there will be no survivor’s lap, no luminaria ceremony, no continuous walks around the track at North Whidbey Middle School in Oak Harbor. COVID-19 has made it necessary to cancel this year’s Relay for Life on Whidbey Island.

“This most definitely was a hard decision to make to put it lightly,” said Amanda Patricco, lead event organizer for the 2020 Relay. “Considering the uncertain and fluid nature of this virus, our main goal is to meet the health and safety needs of our community, while continuing to do all that we can to support cancer patients during this difficult time. In order to reach that goal, the event leadership decided this was the responsible decision to make.”

Just because the Relay for Life “event” has been canceled doesn’t mean efforts to continue to raise funds to support the American Cancer Society have stopped, however.

“Fundraising in this kind of climate is certainly challenging, as many fundraisers have been canceled as a result,” acknowledged Patricco. “With that said, we continue to see money coming in and our total funds increased by $3,500 since last month’s Relay Rally. Our community is just incredible – there’s no better way of putting it. Again, despite the challenges, this is a good time to utilize online platforms like Facebook Fundraising, ACS FUNdraising App, the participant’s dashboard, etc.”

There were 19 teams registered to participate in this year’s Relay. Typically, organizers see that number grow a little more as the Relay date (usually the last weekend in May/first weekend in June) gets closer. The event is a public way of celebrating those who have survived cancer, encouraging those currently engaged in the battle and remembering those who have lost the fight. It is a heartwarming, emotional, cathartic, uplifting, fun and encouraging 18-hours.

Patricco said there are still plans to hold smaller events as social distancing guidelines change and restrictions are loosened.

“Once the COVID-19 threat has subsided, we definitely plan to hold smaller events and will work with our volunteers and community to celebrate our survivors, caregivers, and community,” she said, listing events like a survivor breakfast and luminaria ceremony as examples. “While this is a difficult time, I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation with the community virtually, through our social media platforms, on new and creative ways to support families facing cancer throughout this unprecedented time.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought so many things to a halt these days. But as Patricco said, the fight against cancer is one battle that rages on.

“Cancer doesn’t stop,” she said. “The needs of people facing cancer continue and if anything, they are even more vulnerable given the current circumstances. We plan to continue the conversation with the community through our existing platforms, spread awareness, continue to fundraise if feasible, connect with families of caregivers and survivors and see what resources they may need throughout this pandemic (i.e. masks, groceries, etc.).”

According to the American Cancer Society, 80 percent of calls to the cancer helpline and its LiveChat program in March were COVID-19 related. Many of its services have changed to telephone and online formats to ensure cancer patients have access to support. Go to for a comprehensive resource reference.

Patricco also encourages those interested in helping ACS’s Hope Lodge – which is providing free housing for health care workers across the country during this health crisis – visit to make a donation and to find more information.

Those interested in discovering how they can help locally are invited to email “I appreciate all of the understanding we have received from the community as we work to balance the current circumstances with the need to advance the mission of Relay for Life,” Patricco said. “We are grateful for all the dedication of our fellow volunteers and appreciate the sacrifices they make to support our events. These events will be back and Relay for Whidbey in particular will come back with a fighting force.