A Real Person Behind the Relay

Sacramento County, CA (MPG)  |  By Shelly Lembke
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Hundreds of participants celebrate at Relay for Life events. Relays are open to all: the public, cancer survivors, caregivers and anyone whose life or heart has been touched by this disease.

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Pictured is Tamika Stove, American River Relay for Life Community Manager, California Division of the American Cancer Society.

Each year members of local communities gather together to participate in the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Each event has a local coordinator. The American River Relay for Life is coordinated by Tamika Stove. Stove first became involved with Relay for Life as a volunteer, but found it so rewarding that she stayed with it and now works year-round to promote the event.

Describing herself as “easy going and caffeinated,” Stove puts in long days working for the American Cancer Society, but finds time to be part of Rotary Club and the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce, where she has served both as a Chamber ambassador and as a board member. Her passion for community service is simply part of who she is. Being involved is the way she lives her life. “I feel like I’m part of the world around me,” she said of her work. “It makes me feel good. That’s a powerful thing.”

Relay for Life began in 1985 when Tacoma, Washington doctor Gordon Klatt walked and ran over 80 miles around a track in a single 24-hour period. Today’s relays last between six and 24 hours. Dr. Klatt’s desire was to raise money to aid the American Cancer Society (ACS) in their quest for a cure.

Following Dr. Klatt’s example, the ACS continues to utilize monies raised by the event to fund cancer research, services for the public and cancer patients, speakers and more, all as part of their mission to find a cure and increase awareness about this disease that touches so many around the world.

Stove puts a year into planning each Relay for Life event. She does constant community outreach, happily taking time to answer questions, provide support and recruit volunteers. There are ample opportunities for involvement, she says, and no matter the size of the contribution, whether in the form of time or money, she is enthusiastic, grateful and gracious to have all the help she can get.

Relay for Life relies on all forms of help from the community. There are corporate sponsors of all sizes, from small businesses to large firms. Volunteers can form teams to walk during the event to show support or individuals can show up the day of the event and help with something simple, such as handing out bottled water or setting up the event’s famous luminarias.

Each Relay for Life is a public event and open to all, per Stove. Her ongoing challenges of recruiting volunteers, plus the planning and execution of each Relay, do not deter her in the least. She began her work with the Relay for Life as an ordinary volunteer, donating about an hour a week to making phone calls and distributing flyers.

Her deep commitment to community involvement was fostered early in life. Growing up as the daughter of a dad serving in the United States Air Force, Stove learned about dedication and working for the public good. As a “military brat,” she also became accustomed to moving and finding her place in her new communities. “It helped me value relationships,” she said. Stove works hard to foster those relationships each day in dealing with the public and spreading the word about Relay for Life and the mission of the ACS.

This year’s American River Relay for Life will be held April 22- 23, beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting 24 hours. The event will be hosted at San Juan High School at 7551 Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights and begin with Opening Ceremonies, followed by a Survivor Lap for anyone having been diagnosed, a Caregiver Lap and then by teams on the track. Each time keeps a member on the track always because, as the ACS says, “Cancer never sleeps.” When participants are not on the track there are games, entertainment and activities provided to promote awareness and education about the fight against cancer. Nightfall signals the lighting of the luminaria45s to commemorate the lives that have been lost and celebrate those who have survived cancer, as well as to provide a literal light in the darkness and remind people they are not alone when it comes to this disease. The Relay wraps up with recognizing the work of the volunteers themselves.

For more information on this year’s American Rive Relay for Life, contact Tamika Stove at tamika.stove@cancer.org or americanriverrelay@gmail.com or visit the American Cancer Society’s website at www.acsevents.org.

Hundreds of participants celebrate at Relay for Life events. Relays are open to all: the public, cancer survivors, caregivers and anyone whose life or heart has been touched by this disease.Pictured is Tamika Stove, American River Relay for Life Community Manager, California Division of the American Cancer Society.A moving part of every Relay for Life is light, whether in the form of luminarias or candles. The light is used as a reminder that no one is alone in the dark with this disease. Pictured a single personal note of support for those fighting the good fight to eradicate cancer.