Mon | Jun 21, 2021

The 10-year relay

Published:Monday | June 4, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Marie Powell is a volunteer at heart and is currently chair of the planning committee of this year's Relay for Life. - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Nashauna Drummond, Lifestyle Coordinator

Marie Powell is a firm believer that you should always give back when you've had a reasonably good life. "It's the effect of giving back, even if it's the smallest thing, you get this huge response," she notes. But Powell will give her service wherever she is asked.

"I am a volunteer at heart," the told Flair in a recent interview. Powell is a Rotarian; she volunteers with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, and even the Jamaica Hockey Association. "Even though I have never played hockey," she quipped.

For the past 11 years, one of her causes has been the Jamaica Cancer Society, two of those as chair of the planning committee for the association's annual fund-raiser, Relay For Life. This year, the 10th anniversary of the event, which takes place on Saturday, June 9, at the Police Officers' Club, holds special significance for Powell. "This year is particularly moving because we are trying to raise funds to purchase a new mammography unit." The mammography unit is an important part of the work that the Cancer Society does in providing access to screening for those in rural areas that would not have ready access to such services.

The planning for the event takes a lot of minds and hearts coming together. But even with her regular nine-to-five job, it's an experience that Powell thoroughly enjoys. "The experience is awesome - the love shared between people, especially the survivors, the enthusiasm of the teams and the fun, and making new friends. It is a strengthening event which gives them hope and encourages them."

One such survivor who has benefited from participating in Relay For Life is Carolyn Williams.

 "Relay for Life is a fitting tribute to those whose lives have been touched by cancer. It is a time of reflection and healing, being with other people who have had cancer themselves or have lost someone to cancer. Everybody understands what you are feeling. Relay for Life is more than just a fundraiser, it is a life-changing experience and you have a chance to celebrate, remember and fight back."

A breast cancer survivor, Williams has been
involved with the association for the past five years. After her
diagnosis, she became involved with Reach to Recovery - a voluntary
group of breast cancer survivors who meet once per month - and through
that the Jamaica Cancer Society.

She notes that for
everyone, their reason for participating is different. "Personally, it
symbolises my cancer journey - starting in the light symbolising my
normal life, dusk symbolises learning I had cancer, the dark hours of
the night symbolise the challenge of the treatments and the recovery
period and then, the dawn symbolises the hope of surviving and returning
to normal."

Having benefited from the association,
Williams has joined the cry imploring persons to volunteer to such a
worthwhile cause. "I am a grateful survivor who wants to give back. As a
member of the Jamaica Cancer Society and an executive member of the
Jamaica Reach to Recovery. I can offer my assistance to not only help to
raise much-needed funds for the society, but to increase public
awareness of breast cancer and to inform people that early detection can
save lives. It is important for persons to volunteer their time to the
society because it will give you the opportunity to engage in activities
to raise funds so that the society can carry out their

To that end, Powell and Williams are
encouraging everyone to join a team for Relay for Life. Persons can also
purchase luminaria bags that are lit in memory of those who have lost
the battle with a disease for which there is not yet a

For Williams and Powell and all those associated
with the event, it is more than a fund-raiser. As Williams notes,
"Relay for Life fulfils a need for belonging that we all have and it
also creates and brings people together in a moving and fun atmosphere
with sufficient time for cultivating relationships. By participating,
one thing is clear, with every step you take you are helping the Jamaica
Cancer Society to save a life and you can take pride in knowing that we
all are working to create a world where this disease will one day no
longer threaten the lives of our loved ones or claim another year of