Jefferson County Relay for Life has wrapup meeting, new ACS rep

Emily Russell and Tom Simmons have co-chaired the Jefferson County Relay for Life. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society won’t have a physical presence this summer as it usually does, but support for its mission is nonetheless encouraged and needed, according to the new community development manager who has a local connection.

The Jefferson County Relay for Life was to have been held from 6 p.m. on June 19 to 6 a.m. June 20 at the Toronto Jr.-Sr. High School Clarke Hinkle Stadium but then was delayed until July 31-Aug. 1.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic safety precautions in place, however, the relay has been canceled alltogether. Also canceled was a Touch A Truck Community Festival, a first-time fundraiser for the relay, that was scheduled for June 13 in the rear parking lot of the Fort Steuben Mall.

About 15 representatives of the relay gathered recently for a brief wrap-up meeting and picnic held at the shelterhouse at the Lighthouse Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Richmond, expressing disappointment but understanding regarding the fundraiser’s cancellation. Among those attending were Emily Russell and Tom Simmons, co-chairs. Russell announced that because of a new job, she would be unable to lead the next event.

The picnic was to have been the last time with ACS staff representative Tracy Barnhouse, a Noble County resident, who was unable to attend. Barnhouse was part of the staff in the ACS North Central Region that reduced staff in the wake of the pandemic. On the relay Facebook page, Barnhouse thanked the local volunteers for their hard work and dedication. “It has been a great pleasure to work with you and get to know you,” Barnhouse wrote.

Victoria “Tori” Harper will be the new ACS representative, taking over the event as remote staff.

In providing information, Harper responded to several e-mailed questions, which included the fate of this year’s event, a longtime tradition in the area.

“The American Cancer Society and Relay Committee have proactively assessed the Jefferson County community, and we have made the decision to not hold the Jefferson County Relay for Life event in 2020,” Harper noted of the decision to ensure the safety and welfare of its participants.

Harper grew up in and lives in Fairmont. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from Fairmont State University in 2018. Her fiance is Caleb Anselene, whose grandparents live in Weirton. “We go to visit so I am familiar with the area,” she noted.

She became involved with the ACS when her grandfather, Jerry Floyd, died in 2014 from lung cancer. “He was role model and best friend to me, and when he was diagnosed, I looked for resources to help him and my family get through the difficult times we were about to face,” she explained. “In 2019, I had the opportunity to work for the American Cancer Society as a community development manger in north central West Virginia and now in parts of Ohio. Yes, I am a staff partner of the American Cancer Society, but this is much more than a job to me. I do what I do in honor and memory of my grandpa in hopes to make a difference with the volunteers I work closely with so that one day we can find a cure for cancer,” she added.

Being a community development manager involves working closely with the volunteers in the communities that she manages, helping plan and execute fundraising initiatives, the Relay For Life events, securing sponsors and spreading and raising awareness of the ACS. “I manage three relays in Ohio and four in West Virginia as well as manage the Real Men Wear Pink Campaign in West Virginia. I thoroughly enjoy my job, and it is the people and volunteers I work with that make it so amazing,” she wrote. “I love seeing the impact that the American Cancer Society makes in the communities that we are a part of and how we help provide services and more to survivors, caregivers and cancer patients.”

Harper said she is available to support the Jefferson County Relay for Life in various ways — to provide materials, help plan and execute the relay, plan and assist virtually with fundraisers made by teams and individual relayers, raise awareness in Jefferson County and get more youth and people involved.

She identified her challenges as “getting in contact with new teams and volunteers and building those relationships when I can’t be there in person, but I communicate via text, phone, e-mail and video chat. I know once I build a strong relationship with the Relay For Life of Jefferson County committee, we will be successful together and make an impact. I have had wonderful conversations so far with the volunteers and committee and am looking forward to 2021.”

With the pandemic reducing ACS revenue, Harper noted that “like all nonprofits and local businesses, we are struggling and need help. We are working with community partners and volunteers to continue the fight by raising funds for ACS to keep our programs and services running like free wigs, free transportation and lodging for patients seeking treatment and much more. We need all hands on deck.”

People can donate or support the ACS at relayforlife.org/jeffersonoh or cancer.org; host fundraisers; or sign up and create a team on relayforlife.org/jeffersonoh. “Once signed up, link your relay account to your Facebook page and the money raised will go toward the Jefferson County RFL.”

Working remotely will constitute a different approach.

“I am used to being out in the community with my volunteers and teams and now that I am considered remote, I will be working from home and interacting with teams, participants and volunteers virtually, which is new to me and relayers, but we will tread these waters together and be successful together,” she wrote.

“I want readers to know that the American Cancer Society has a mission to fight for a world without cancer. and we need our volunteers and donors in order to make an impact. We are who we are because of them and what they do to support us and I truly believe that. I have met some of the most inspiring people because of relay events. Survivors and their families’ stories are truly powerful. If we join together and fight this fight together, I truly believe we will have a world without cancer one day, and I have seen progress made in research funded by ACS,” she explained.

For ACS information, visit cancer.org. The cancer helpline number is (800) 227-2345. To contact Harper, e-mail Victoria.Harper@cancer.org. or call (304) 290-1851.


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