2010-06-03 / News

No choice but to walk

Chairman talks about her journey with Relay for Life on June 12-13

Joyce Nolin-Capman, chairman of the 2010 Lapeer County Relay for Life, holds up this year’s T-shirt design. Joyce Nolin-Capman, chairman of the 2010 Lapeer County Relay for Life, holds up this year’s T-shirt design. LAPEER COUNTY — Joyce Nolin-Capman stands outside a local coffee shop holding up a Relay for Life T-shirt waiting to get her photo taken.

But before the camera can catch a smile, two coffee shop patrons walk out — one wearing a medical mask. They point to Nolin-Capman and say, “Hey we’re doing Relay for Life.” One of the women explains that her friend wearing the mask was just diagnosed with cancer.

Nolin-Capman jumps into Relay for Life mode, putting down the T-shirt and handing them a schedule of events for the Lapeer County Relay for Life taking place 8 a.m.-8 a.m. Saturday to Sunday, June 12-13 at the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds in Imlay City.

The women take the brochure and while walking away one turns around and says to Nolin- Capman, “Thank God for people like you, thank you for all you do.”

Ten years ago Nolin-Capman would have had no idea that such a scene would take place. She hadn’t walked in Relay for Life, a 24-hour fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, let alone taken her place as one of the key organizers of the event.

But that was before 2006 when her husband Gary passed away from pancreatic cancer.

That same year Lapeer County Relay for Life moved to the fairgrounds, right next door to the bank where Nolin- Capman worked.

Watching the planning and set up first hand, Nolin- Capman said it was like she didn’t have a choice — she was part of Relay for Life.

“For me it was a step toward healing,” she said. “And also a positive thing.”

She headed up a team at her bank and joined in.

“It was bigger than I thought it was gonna be,” said Nolin- Capman.

She had so much fun that Relay for Life became a bigger part of her life.

“After the first year, you’re hooked,” said Nolin-Capman.

Since 2006 Nolin-Capman has taken on a larger role for each Relay for Life and this year she is the chairman of the event, which she said includes a lot of delegating and getting the right people in the right positions.

The entire event is run by volunteers — appropriate said Nolin-Capman since only 5 percent of funds raised for the American Cancer Society go to administration. The rest of the 95 percent of funds goes to research and other American Cancer Society programs like their 24-hour hotline and ride service, which gets patients to and from cancer treatments.

The Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature event.

Last year in Lapeer County a record breaking total of more than $151,000 was raised at Relay for Life.

“When (economic) times are difficult people are more aware of other people’s problems,” said Nolin-Capman.

While meeting or beating that amount would be amazing, said Nolin-Capman, the goal for this year’s event is $142,000.

There are 41 teams, which is up from 38 last year. With the theme of nursery rhymes and fairy tales each team will get to decorate their camp to fit their favorite nursery rhyme or fairy tale. Each team does their own fundraiser during the event including everything from a general store, to bake sales and much more.

“It grows every year,” said Carol Boom, community representative for the American Cancer Society. “We have a fabulous couple of teams that are huge.”

Nolin-Capman said the far reach of cancer is what makes this event so big.

“There is not a person walking on this earth who has not been touched by cancer,” she said. “It’s just this huge thing.”

Also part of the event, which everyone, even those without a team are invited to attend, is a huge silent auction, a Shrek competition, live entertainment, food and a survivor walk at 6 p.m. followed by a lap for survivors and their caregivers — “All of these people give us hope,” said Nolin-Capman. A luminaria ceremony, which is Nolin-Capman’s favorite part, is held at 9:45 p.m. to remember those who have passed from cancer.

While the job of chairman is a busy one, Nolin-Capman said it’s all worth it.

“Maybe other people won’t have to go through (cancer or losing a loved one),” she said.

Also a favorite part of the event for Nolin-Capman are the people.

“There’s the camaraderie (and) understanding and underlying current of hope,” she said.

Some of that hope, perhaps, is that life can continue to have happy moments even after the loss of a loved one. Nolin- Capman is living proof. She married her husband Don, who also lost his wife to cancer, two years ago.

“He’s been very supportive,” said Nolin-Capman.

For more information on Lapeer County Relay for Life or to make a donation, visit www.relayforlife.org/lapeercountymi.

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