Neighboring Relay for Life events to mergeRelay for Life committees for the Woodbury and Cottage Grove communities have officially agreed to merge the two separate cancer research fundraiser events into one event that will take place at East Ridge High School.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
Cottage Grove and Woodbury are merging two of their bigger summer community events. No, not Strawberry Fest and Woodbury Days.
Relay for Life committees for both communities met late last month to officially agree on a merger for the two separate cancer research fundraiser events into one event that will take place at East Ridge High School in Woodbury.
The decision, organizers say, is based on a number of factors including the economy and the addition of a new high school to the South Washington County Schools community.
“It just seems like the right thing to do and the right time to do it,” said Michelle Alpers, co-chair of the newly merged South Washington County Relay for Life.
Alpers, a Cottage Grove resident who grew up in Woodbury, served as co-chair of the Woodbury Relay for Life last year and has been active with the fundraiser for many years. She will be joined by co-chair Alesha Schutz, who was co-chair of the Cottage Grove Relay for Life last year.
Schutz, who has been involved with Relay for Life since 2007, said she sees the merger as an opportunity for neighboring communities to advance a spirit of camaraderie.
“I think people sometimes don’t realize how interconnected Woodbury and Cottage Grove really are,” said Schutz, a Cottage Grove resident. “I used to work in Woodbury, and I live in Cottage Grove. We are always going back and forth between cities. I think (the merger) sends the message that cancer doesn’t have borderlines.”
The decision for the groups to merge wasn’t any easy one, said former Relay for Life chair Mary LaPrairie.
Talk of a potential merger began earlier this year when construction was winding down on the new East Ridge High School.
For the better part of the last decade the Woodbury Relay for Life event has taken place at the track at Woodbury High School, but this summer the organization received an invite from East Ridge principal Aaron Harper to use the track at the new high school for the 2010 event.
The Woodbury Relay for Life organizing committee discussed the possibility and then began talks with Cottage Grove Relay for Life organizers to use the opportunity as a springboard to merge the events, LaPrairie said.
“Everyone was on board pretty early,” LaPrairie said, but the merger needed approval from the American Cancer Society, which is the parent organization for Relay for Life events.
Representatives from the American Cancer Society attended a meeting between the neighboring Relay for Life committees and approved the merger shortly thereafter.
Alpers said the move will cut out any possible competition for sponsors that may have existed between the separate Relay for Life organizations in the past.
“It was quite difficult at times when we were out their looking to businesses for sponsorships,” Schutz said. “Especially with the economy the way it has been recently, businesses may not have the ability to sponsor two events and then they have to choose between Cottage Grove or Woodbury. This will make it a lot easier for us to find sponsors, and it will make it easier for sponsors to want to support (Relay for Life) because they know their dollars are going to stretch further.”
Since the merger was made official, organizers have been placing phone calls to fundraising team contacts to let them know about the news, which includes a new date (June 4, 2010) and new fundraising goals.
Last year the Cottage Grove Relay for Life event, in its third year, was held in July and featured 16 fundraising teams that raised $30,000 for the American Cancer Society. The Woodbury Relay for Life was held in June 19 and featured 65 teams that raised about $200,000.
Alpers believes the combined efforts of the organizations for the June 4, 2010 South Washington County Relay for Life will do more than just add the previous year’s fundraising totals.
“We are looking at this situation as way to combine our efforts and produce numbers than exceed those added totals,” Alpers said.
The tentative fundraising goal for the South Washington County Relay for Life 2010 event is to field 90 fundraising teams for a total of $260,000, Alpers said.
“We believe that when we strengthen these bonds between the neighboring communities good things will happen,” she said.