Racing to Raise Funds

Racing to Raise Funds

Local groups pursue original ways of raising Relay for Life funds.

Whether it is by singing at a local restaurant, organizing a charity downtown Herndon "pub crawl" or celebrating Cinco de Mayo with margaritas and empanadas, area residents are coming up with new and original efforts at fund-raising in advance of the fourth annual Herndon Relay for Life cancer research fund-raiser.

With sights aimed at breaking local fund-raising goals for the fourth straight year, more participants are turning to increasingly diverse and alternative fund-raising tactics to mobilize the Herndon community anyway they can, according to Lisa Fagan, co-chairperson for Herndon Relay for Life.

"We have just so many organizations and relays around here in the Herndon area that people have increasingly found that they need to be original in order to be successful," Fagan said. "They’re coming away from some of the classic methods … and going towards their strengths and what they know as they raise their funds."

And the stakes are even higher after last year’s Relay for Life shattered a set goal of $180,000 when participants raised $260,000, according to Fagan. This year, as many as 1,000 individual participants and more than 50 groups will look to raise more than $275,000 for the American Cancer Society to be used in cancer research and awareness, she added.

The Herndon Relay for Life will take place at the Herndon High School track overnight between June 9 and June 10.

ABOUT 90 PERCENT of all the money raised for the event will go directly to the American Cancer Society and the fight against cancer, with 10 percent covering the event expenses, according to Fagan. The vast majority of the money raised at the Herndon Relay for Life event comes from individual, private donors, she added.

The groups, corporations and individual fund-raisers who are able to collect the most money are given recognition at the event, while one participant receives the memorial Simpson Spirit of Relay award for inspiring the most community involvement, Fagan said.

As in years past, Herndon resident and co-owner of JJ Deli in Herndon Jackie Johnson and her husband Jeff held a Cinco de Mayo party, complete with homemade empanadas and margaritas, to raise money for their Relay for Life group.

"We sat around and were thinking about how we can get some more money for Relay for Life and we thought ‘hey, we have this restaurant, why not have a Cinco de Mayo party?’" said Johnson.

Having the JJ Deli to utilize as a fund-raising tool for cancer research hasn’t stopped with the party, she said, adding that everyday the couple is able to raise money through the patrons that visit its Herndon Centennial Golf Course location.

"Through the community we’re able to see a lot of people, and having a public place like this has really helped," Johnson said. "People can come in, see this and say ‘wow, in this little corner of the world we have someone who has been affected [by cancer] and doing something about it.’"

So far Johnson and her husband have raised nearly $1,500.

A NATURAL DRAW for her vocal talents, Herndon resident, high school junior and singer Emma Bailey held a concert to attract possible donors at Mediterranean Breeze downtown. Herndon resident Ellen Kaminsky will be joining with her group on Thursday of this week for first year ever of a fund-raising "pub crawl" that will make stops at four restaurants in downtown Herndon.

Having creative ways of attracting donors is key to success for this event, particularly in a town like Herndon and during the Relay for Life season, said Kaminsky, a veteran non-profit employee.

"You can’t swing a stick in Herndon without hitting a worthy cause," she said. "There is a greater drive to find new and creative ways of attracting those donations … so you’re not just looking with your hand out, you’re doing something that is fun and new and when it’s for a good cause, it’s all the better."

The growing creativity is more than just an inspiring push from local groups, but the evolution of Herndon Relay for Life to involve all the members of the community, said Fagan.

"It’s really becoming sort of a town event," Fagan said. "All these funds going to fight cancer are the nickels and dimes put together from someone seeing Emma [Bailey] singing or from a person at a pub crawl."

"Herndon is such a unique place to have a relay because it is such a close community where the whole town really participates."