National Cremation Joins the Fight Against Cancer At Relay for Life

National Cremation Joins the Fight Against Cancer At Relay for Life

April 24 was an unusually hot day, but three new members of National Cremation’s Fruitland Park office spent it in the fight against cancer as part of the Relay For Life movement, which took place at the New Covenant United Methodist Church in The Villages.

The National Cremation Team

Service Manager Sara McGovern was joined by Arrangement Counselor Cory Allen as well as her husband, Jeremy Rock, her parents, Janis and Tom McGovern, 3-year old twin niece and nephew Lilly and Layne as well as family friend Nancy Von Ohlen in the six hour event. Even Office Manager Michelle Gessner was able to help with fundraising while caring for her two sick children.

Joining the Fight

New to the office and interested in getting to know the community they would be serving, Sara, Cory and Michelle started researching different events they could attend when they first heard about the Relay For Life event on March 19.

When she found out that the event had already been in the planning stages for a year, Sara panicked a little because of how far behind on fundraising they would be. But when she met with Tami Dion from the American Cancer Society and Heather Reitz, a veteran fundraiser for Relay For Life, they were able to quickly brainstorm fundraising ideas including a bake sale and rummage sale.

A Personal Journey

Sara’s Aunt Mary Johnson had lost her battle with cancer on May 8, 2014 at the age of 55…just six months after her diagnosis. With this loss still fresh in her heart, Sara’s participation in the event became a very personal journey of grief, acceptance and remembrance.

Honoring Cancer Patients, Survivors and Those Who Have Lost the Fight

The event allows community members to honor cancer survivors, remember lost loved ones and fight back against a disease that takes so much. The funds raised through the event support research and various programs including:

  • American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, which helps cancer patients find and pay for affordable lodging when they have to travel for treatment
  • American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery, which pairs cancer patients with volunteer drivers that can help transport them to and from treatment
  • Look Good…Feel Better, which is a free service that empowers women to feel beautiful and teaches them ways to cope with their appearance and self image during chemo and radiation treatments
  • Reach to Recovery, which is a support group comprised of breast cancer survivors who are specially trained to offer understanding and hope to people who have been recently diagnosed

The Event

Setup began at noon and the opening ceremonies started at 3pm. The Survivor and Caregiver laps concluded the opening ceremony and the relay began in earnest at 4:30.

Because cancer never sleeps, each team is asked to have at least one member walking on the track at all times, so the National Cremation team took 30 minute turns walking.

While the day was exceptionally hot, they managed to stay hydrated and on the track for the whole event, covering for one another when someone needed a break.

For fundraising at our campsite we had our interactive S’mores making bar and used Sterno fuel to roast marshmallows. It was pretty windy so we had some technical difficulties, but we got creative.

We also had a chance drawing basket that people could enter with a $5 donation. It had a gift card for an hour facial, a Chili’s gift card, Yankee candles and other decorative items.

We even had free goodie bags with National Cremation cups, beach balls, chapstick, candy and chip clips because everyone loves free stuff!

The Experience

We walked, sweat and interacted with everyone – especially the clowns, the twins loved them – until it was time for the balloon release. Everyone gathered at the stage with their balloons in hand and waited for the cue to release them.

This was very emotional for me and my parents. We released our balloons with our messages to Aunt Mary. As they floated away, I felt I released a bit of sadness I’ve been carrying for the last year.

This event was followed by the Luminaria Ceremony, which is performed to honor those that have lost the cancer fight. Throughout the year, people could purchase Luminaria bags and write “In Memory Of” messages. These bags were placed around the track and illuminated before the ceremony.

The Ceremony began with everyone getting bubbles. The bagpiper played Amazing Grace and everyone walked along the track reading the messages and blowing bubbles to Heaven.

There is nothing easy about the cancer fight or the loss that someone feels when the battle is lost.

In our profession, we know the effect this disease has on families and how hard it can be to go through the grieving process – I personally know how that loss feels.

I also know that feeling will never go away. It may change, but the missing piece will remain.

The laps that we took during the Luminaria Ceremony honoring those lives that meant so much to us felt like it symbolized moving forward.

We Look Forward to Joining the Fight in Next Year’s Relay For Life

While our team started fundraising almost a year after the event first started, we were able to raise $407.55 in just four weeks. “I am really proud of that number and my team,” says Sara. “Team National Cremation Society was enthusiastic and determined to raise as much as we could in this short amount of time.”

“I’m glad we had the honor to represent National Cremation Society at the Relay For Life and raise money for such a great cause. We look forward to starting early for next year!”

The event has raised a total of $78,871.69 so far. Yet while the event may be over, donations will be accepted through the end of August. Join the fight against cancer and support Team National Cremation by donating today!


Special thanks to Sara McGovern, service manager of National Cremation Fruitland Park, FL for her support and contributions to this post.

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