If there was one thing Ashley McKay learned from her grandmother, it was to treat everyone with respect.
Her grandmother never had anything bad to say about anyone.
“She was the most caring individual that I’ve ever met. She was always there. She was always pushing us to go to school because she never got to go to school, pushing us to do what we wanted to do and do our best always,” said McKay, a Victoria resident.
Four years ago, her grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and within a few weeks, passed away. Her death came as a shock to McKay’s family — her mother, father and sisters.
As a way of dealing with their grief, the family decided to participate in Victoria’s Relay for Life, an annual fundraiser where cancer survivors and families walk along a track and pass a baton to teammates. Money raised goes towards the Canadian Cancer Society to help fund cancer research, and provide services and support for families diagnosed with cancer on Vancouver Island.
“I originally started Relay as a way to grieve, as a way to put all of those feelings into something positive and meet other people in similar situations,” said the 26-year-old.
Since then, McKay has taken on a leadership role with the Relay for Life Victoria committee, planning the annual event.
This year, Relay for Life is entering its 17th year in Victoria. However, due to low participation numbers, the relay is in jeopardy of being cancelled.
Jan Buehler, with the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon, said numbers have been decreasing for the past six to seven years in B.C.
Buehler speculated the decrease could be due to competition from other fundraisers for causes that have a strong activity component.
“It will be very sad because it’s a long-standing event in the community. Even for staff and everybody, it’s a nice place to get together when you’ve been affected and touched by cancer because everyone understands and it’s such a devastating disease,” she said, adding they’ll have to find another way to fundraise for the society if the event is cancelled.
“We’re absolutely dedicated to providing support services to people on the Island.”
Last week, the society hosted an awareness event on the lawns of the B.C. legislature to encourage people to sign up.
So far, there are 68 people registered. Organizers need roughly 150 participants or the race will be cancelled.
Relay for Life takes place on Friday, June 24 at Centennial Stadium at the University of Victoria at 6 p.m.
For more information or to register visit convio.cancer.ca/.