AYER — Cancer survivor Martha Craft wants to “paint the town purple” to support the American Cancer Society (ACS).
But she’s not doing it alone — or with a paint brush. Instead, she’s one of hundreds of volunteers in the region who are selling purple ribbons for $5 a piece for Relay for Life, an annual ACS fund-raiser.
“We’re asking people to tie them on mailboxes and display them in businesses to raise awareness of the event and its mission,” said Craft. “We’re painting the town purple for the month of June, because purple is the relay color.”
The relay is an 18-hour event at the Ayer school complex. From June 22 at 6 p.m. until June 23 at noon, relay teams will walk the athletic track for ACS.
It will be one of 200 such events held across New England this summer.
Between now and then, over 300 volunteers from the region will collect donations, all of which will be forwarded to the ACS for cancer research, advocacy, education and patient services, said Craft.
The Ayer relay has already raised $34,333 toward its goal of $150,000. With 34 teams and 370 volunteers already signed on — versus 23 and 369 last year — Craft said she’s optimistic the relay will reach the goal.
“I think it’s very possible,” she said. “It’s clearly going well.”
Registration is still open for teams from Ayer, Harvard, Devens, Groton, Townsend, Lunenburg, Pepperell and Shirley. It costs $10 to register, and each participant is asked to raise $100 for the event.
While the lion’s share of donations comes through solicitation, some teams are getting creative, said Craft.
The “Family Strides” team from Groton is holding a book and lemonade sale at the Groton entrance of the Rail Trail on June 16 from 10 a.m. on. Another team has worked out a sponsorship deal with the Westford Applebee’s that’s been bringing in donations since February. Yet another team is holding a children’s movie night.
While donations are a central theme of the event, survivors are too, said Craft. She said “survivor” is often erroneously designated to only people who’ve beaten cancer. Instead, you’re a survivor from the day you’re diagnosed, she said.
Highlights of the relay include a survivor’s reception, a survivor-only lap and a luminary ceremony where the track is lit with illuminated bags placed in honor of those touched by cancer.
“It’s very touching,” she said. “It’s a celebration of life for survivors and their guests.”
Bringing people together is a big part of what’s kept Craft involved with the event since it came to the area eight years ago. She said the support and positive outlook provided by the ACS were key when she battled ovarian cancer 11 years ago, and that she’s looking to return the favor now.
“I wanted to give back,” she said. “I think you can become very isolated when you have any sort of debilitating disease, and it’s important to know you’re not alone.”
For information visit www.relayinayer.com.
Registration will also be taken at the relay’s next Planning Committee meeting, which will be held June 12, at 6:30 p.m., in the Founder’s Room at Nashoba Valley Medical Center.