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Queens cancer fund-raiser postponed until next month

By Courtney Dentch

Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, which was planned for this weekend at Roy Wilkins Park, is being postponed until next month.

The event, aimed at raising money for cancer research and education and celebrating the efforts of cancer survivors, was scheduled to be held at the park in Jamaica from Friday night to Saturday morning but was canceled Tuesday, said Dan Klotz, a spokesman for the American Cancer Society. Klotz hopes to keep the Relay in Roy Wilkins Park and reschedule the event for a weekend in July, he said.

The American Cancer Society was informed of the scheduling conflict Tuesday afternoon, although city officials could not provide the organization with a concrete explanation as to what caused the change in plans, Klotz said.

Officials from both the Roy Wilkins Park and the Southern Queens Parks Association could not be reached for comment.

The event was to begin Friday night with a victory lap as Queens’ cancer survivors circle a running track, and continue through Saturday morning with relay teams taking turns completing laps to raise money for cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services.

“Relay for Life truly embodies the spirit of the American Cancer Society,” said Theresa Osborne, Queens regional executive for the organization. “Besides raising much-needed funds for cancer research, programs and services, Relay raises awareness about the disease and brings the community together.”

The overnight event is the nation’s largest grassroots fund-raiser for the disease and has been growing since it began in 1985. The first Relay for Life was held in Tacoma, Wash., when a single doctor circled a track for a full 24 hours. Since then it has raised a total of $732 million, according to a press release from the American Cancer Society.

Last year, about 40,000 participants in New York and New Jersey raised $5.5 million, the release said.

The Jamaica event is one of five Relays for Life planned this year in New York City, and this was the first time Jamaica was to have hosted one. One of the other events was held last weekend at Beach Channel High School in the Rockaways for the second year, said Klotz. The society hopes both Queens locations will become annual hosts for the event, he said.

About 600 people participated in the Relay in the Rockaways last weekend, and raised about $44,000, Klotz said. He hopes to see a similar turnout at the Jamaica Relay, despite the postponement, he said.

The event planned for Jamaica was to mirror other Relay for Life events, including the one in the Rockaways, Klotz said. The relay teams are made up of eight to 15 people, and teams are asked to raise at least $100 before arriving at the event. Teams build campsites and barbecues, cheer on others or walk the candle-lined track themselves throughout the 14-hour fund-raiser, Klotz said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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