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Local high schools remember beloved teacher with Relay for Life

Both of Collingwood’s high schools are planning a return for their annual shared event, the Relay for Life, to commemorate those who have survived cancer, who are fighting it still, and who have died from the disease.

Though normally a co-host situation, Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) and Our Lady of the Bay Catholic High School have to host separate events because of COVID restrictions, but they’re collaborating from a distance.

The schools began hosting the event regularly after a CCI teacher, Mark Spencer, received a cancer diagnosis. He died in 2012. His wife was a teacher at the Catholic high school.

Since then, the schools have taken turns hosting the Relay for Life event, and are glad to be getting back to in-person events.

The Relay event takes place on the school tracks. Teams of participants will spend the event walking the track with at least one member of the team on the track at all times.

“It signifies the battle against cancer,” said John McDonald, one of the CCI teachers helping plan their event.

At CCI, the event will be on June 8 from 10 am to 10 pm, at Our Lady of the Bay, it’s the same day from 9 am to 3 pm

Both events will begin with a survivor’s lap, which will include people from the community who have survived a cancer diagnosis. The events conclude with a luminaries walk, which involves placing paper bags with messages of hope and memorials for loved ones around the track with lit candles inside.

“It’s a very touching ceremony,” said McDonald.

Reese McDonald and ilmilie Tate, Grade 11 students at Our Lady of the Bay, have been helping with the organizing committee. They are planning for the whole school of about 500 to attend their event, and are excited for a return to in-person events.

Tate said the cause is important too, Relay for Life is a fundraising event for the Canadian Cancer Society. Her grandpa and aunt have recently been diagnosed with cancer so she will be walking for them.

McDonald said there have been many members of her family and friends who have had cancer come back after surviving it a first or second time.

She’ll be walking for a family friend who received a third cancer diagnosis.

Each of the school events are limited to participation by students and staff, but both are accepting cash and in-kind donations to cover the costs of entertainment, giveaways, and to support the Canadian Cancer Society.

You can make a donation online toward the fundraising efforts of the teacher’s team for Our Lady of the Bay at the Relay for Life website here.

Students will be sending out letters to local businesses asking for sponsorship support, and anyone wishing to contribute can email John McDonald at [email protected] or Our Lady of the Bay teacher Katy Funston at [email protected]

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