A visit to the Relay For Life of Alle-Kiski Valley Facebook page features a banner that declares “2018 relay season is here.”
There’s just one problem: There won’t be a 2018 relay season for the New Kensington-based fundraiser.
On Monday, it was announced that the Relay For Life of Alle-Kiski Valley, set to enter its 17th year with the coming season, would be disbanded and merged with the Highlands Relay For Life.
Highlands’ event is held at Golden Rams Stadium in the Natrona Heights neighborhood of Harrison.
According to a letter, sent to relay organizers and dated Oct. 29, relay income and community engagement are down, forcing the American Cancer Society, the national organization that sponsors the relays, to make tough decisions about what events continue and which do not.
“The American Cancer Society’s commitment to the Relay For Life program remains as strong as ever, and it will continue to be a critical platform for the organization,” the letter reads, in part. “However, we need to adapt to changing times and we have to acknowledge a hard truth. Relay income and community engagement have been declining.”
Relay For Life events represent the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser.
Started as a one-man, 24-hour fundraiser in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash., the events work to bring the community together and support survivors, according to program organizers.
All of the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society and is funneled back into communities for research and patient programs, according to the program website.
The Alle-Kiski Valley Relay, along with many other relay events, due to scheduling and staffing issues, had recently switched to a 14-hour format instead of the traditional 24-hour relay event.
Still, even with reduced hours, according to the letter canceling the event, the ACS feels the community’s volunteer resources would be better allocated elsewhere.
“Effective stewardship of our limited resources, including the time and energy of both our volunteers and our staff, has never been more important. We need to allocate resources toward those events and activities that have the greatest mission impact and discontinue those that do not have the results our supporters expect and deserve,” the letter reads.
Relay faithful who have participated in the Alle-Kiski Valley event are being encouraged to continue their support by joining other nearby events or hosting their own third-party fundraisers.
Event’s leader turns to another cause
Relay For Life of Alle-Kiski Valley organizer Linda Kelley said her team of relay participants will not be participating in neighboring events, but not because of any bad blood.
Kelley said that they will walk to support autism next year instead.
Kelley can’t speak for every relay participant, but she said a few groups she knows also will not join neighboring events.
“I do know a couple that I have spoken to don’t plan to participate in other relay events but do still plan to hold occasional fundraisers to raise money for American Cancer Society and will donate directly to them,” she said.
Merger with Highlands
According to Anne Dolinski, senior manager of community development with the ACS, the Relay For Life of Alle-Kiski Valley will merge with the Highlands Relay, based in Harrison.
“The Alle-Kiski Relay For Life and Highlands Relay For Life are being merged into one event,” Dolinski said. “By merging events and leveraging the power of volunteer leadership, we can build and grow one very successful event.
“Each event has its unique strengths. We believe they will be able to come together as a cancer-fighting community and create an unforgettable experience for survivors and caregivers.”
Dolinski said that though some relays are being merged with others, her organization is looking at new ways to bring money to the fight against cancer.
“We have also mapped out a cancer blueprint to define the future of cancer control in the United States, and we are aggressively pursuing new revenue strategies to drive our success,” she said.
Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.