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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Inside the World of Relay for Life - Part One -- Coco Lierfatte Reporting

Relay for Life is an amazing organization. It was founded in real life in 1985, and they established the organization in Second Life in 2004. The expansion of Relay for Life once they started in Second Life is tremendous; this season alone there are 96 teams, and over 2,000 relayers and the season hasn't even started! This season starts March 10th, 2012, and it's expected to be a great season this year. As the season's premiere approaches, I got to sit down with some of the people who help make Relay for Life possible.





One such person is survivor and veteran Poppy Zabelin.

C.L. - How long have you been a part of Relay for Life?
P.Z. - I've been involved for five years in SL and for two years in RL. I have held the following positions in RFL of SL:
2007 and 2008 Survivors Chair
2009 International Chair
2010 and 2011 Area Chair Public Relations and Marketing

This year I decided to take a break from the committee although I will still be donating and going to events.

C.L. - What made you join Relay for Life?
P.Z. - I am a cancer survivor, and I have twice heard those words "I'm sorry, you have cancer." I came into SL to explore and discovered that there was a group for cancer survivors. So I joined the group, and I was straightaway asked to become Chair of the RFL of SL survivors committee. That was in 2007!




C.L. - How has Relay for Life affected your life?
P.Z. - I have met some amazing people through RFL. Fellow survivors, caregivers, and people who just keep on giving. One of the most amazing parts of Relay for me as a survivor is the opening lap, when the survivors walk around the track and people stand along the side to cheer us on. It does your heart good that there are so many people there to support us. And it is the same emotion both in SL and in real life. I also find the luminaria ceremony very moving, when people light candles in bags and line the track with them, and we read out messages of hope and remembrance. Relay For Life in SL has also inspired me to join my local hometown Relay For Life.

C.L. - Have you seen other people get changed by their experiences in Relay for Life?
P.Z. - Yes. During my five years of relaying in SL, we have lost several committed relayers in the fight against cancer. It affects and changes all of us, and while we grieve, we also take inspiration from the loved ones we have lost to carry on fighting.

C.L - Was Relay more than yo expected or was it better?
P.Z. - It was more, it was better,it was quite unlike anything I had ever come across or could have imagined.




C.L. - What has it been like seeing how people are affected by RFL?
P.Z. - It is infectious the way that people inspire each other, come up with new creative ideas, and celebrate the survivors and caregivers among us.

C.L. - What are your goals when it comes to RFL?
P.Z. - The goal of RFL is to raise money for research so that we may one day find a cure for cancer (or rather, for the many different kinds of cancer). But although there have been important advances even in the five years that I've been relaying, a cure for cancer is not waiting right around the corner. And in the meantime, there is much work to be done in improving treatment, providing support, and educating people about ways to prevent cancer.

C.L. - What was it like when you first joined Relay for Life?
P.Z. - When I took part in my first Relay, I really didn't know what to expect. The first event I went to was the Halfway There Fair. There was a huge wall, with pictures of cancer survivors, and lots of tents with games and activities. We survivors walked around the fair in our purple survivor t-shirts. It was extraordinary to come across avatars in purple shirts and realize that behind each avatar there was a real person who had gone through or might at that moment be going through treatment for cancer.




C.L. - What can other people do to help Relay for Life?
P.Z. - Give, give and keep on giving! And when you see a survivor, hug them!

C.L. - What do you expect for this Relay season and future ones?
P.Z. - That we will exceed every goal we've set ourselves, until a doctor can look every patient in the eye and say "You have cancer ... but now we can do something about it."


Another person to honor me with a talk was Relay for Life committee member MamaP Beerbaum.

C.L. - Relay for Life is a huge organization, and a well known foundation. Has bringing it into SL made the charity bigger do you think?
M.B. - Well there are 1000's of relays around the world. We are one of the biggest! I think last year we were in the top 50 as far as fundraising goes. Usually a Relay is city based, or organization based. They each have a number of teams.




C.L. - Wow, that's impressive. It's so great how many people support RLF. Do you have goals for next year to make it bigger?
M.B. - Well we are always trying to make it bigger, to raise more. Last year we had about 120 teams, 2000 relayers. This year already we have 83 teams and 1700 relayers signed up, and we do not kick off until March 10th! We have reached out to communities that have not relayed with us before.

C.L. - Wow, so that's a pretty impressive amount of teams and relayers in SL. I know there are tons of ways people connect with other teams across the grids (I.E. events.) What other ways can relayers and teams connect?
M.B. - We have a group. Captains of our teams are in another group together. We have Event Boards that list all events being held during a given time.

C.L. - So, pretty much everyone is connected and there can always be something going on with the teams?
M.B. - Oh yes! Our volunteer group is very active. We already have events in it that will start till March 10th!




C.L. - Now, with RFL I know a lot of survivors are in the organization. Does Relay For Life have ways that survivors can be connected?
M.B. - Yes. the Relay motto is Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back. We Celebrate our survivors, we Remember those we have lost, and we Fight Back so that we never have to hear those words "You have cancer." One of the most-moving ceremonies we have during relay weekend, which is July 14th and 15th of this year, is our Survivor and Caregiver lap. We open Relay weekend with our Survivors and Caregivers taking a celebratory lap around the track, while we all stand on the side and cheer them on.

C.L. - I love the motto, it truly speaks for what Relay is all about. What exactly is Survivors and Caregivers lap?
M.B. - Celebrate – The Survivors Lap...Relay starts with a Survivors Lap – an inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we’ve achieved over cancer. The Survivors Lap is an emotional example of how Relay participants are ensuring that more lives are saved each year – like those of each individual on the track. We also recognize and celebrate caregivers at Relay For Life. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer. At Relay, people understand the frustrations and joys of being a caregiver, since the effects of cancer reach far beyond just the person diagnosed.

C.L. - So, for those who don't know, what are some ways they can get involved with RFL real life or Second Life?
M.B. - They can visit our website www.relayforlife.org/secondlife and read all about us. They can join a team, they can start a team, they can be on the committee.

You can contact Relay For Life event chair MamaP Beerbaum [e-mail], Co-captian Dwen Dooley [e-mail], and Co-captian Nikki Mathieson [e-mail] via e-mail, or you can contact them in-world.

My interviews continue in part two of Inside the Relay for Life--coming Thursday.

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