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Bad economy halts one Relay for Life

Queens residents are diverse, but they do have things in common, like consistent willingness to donate money for cancer - especially in times of economic hardship.
“Cancer does not discriminate, so in times like these it almost forces people to rally a little bit more,” said Tameron Ackley-Kavdal, vice president of the Queens branch of the American Cancer Society (ACS).
One example of this enthusiasm has been the community Relays For Life, overnight vigils held under the banner of the ACS to raise funds and awareness. So far this year, they have brought the borough’s chapter of ACS 20 percent more funds, said Ackley-Kavdal.
But in at least one neighborhood, Richmond Hill, the economy had a very adverse effect on donations. This year, their Relay for Life was low-key - finding little support from the community, the neighborhood couldn’t organize an independent event scheduled for late June, so a week earlier it combined its relay with that of nearby Jamaica.
Because of the economic downturn, individuals and local businesses who had promised support were unable to provide it, so only $6,000 was raised - compared to last year’s $20,000, said Carolina Soto, vice chairperson of Richmond Hill Relay for Life. The target was $35,000.
“In this community, everybody has a very bad monetary issue right now. A lot of people said if they have five dollars, they’ll give me two dollars, but they won’t give me five,” Soto explained.
Also, this year only 50 people participated in the vigil, compared to last year’s 500, said Soto.
This low number is the reason why ACS decided to combine the relay with Jamaica’s, said Tara Peters, ACS vice president of communications and marketing. “We realized as the event got closer there wouldn’t be enough people to participate,” she said, explaining that the average number of people who turn up at borough relays is 400.
“We just didn’t have the participant numbers in Richmond Hill to make it successful,” she said.

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