THE Jamaica Cancer Society is expecting to raise $20 million when it stages its annual Relay for Life event next month to help finance its efforts to raise awareness about cancer, provide screening tests for and early detection of the disease, and celebrate survivorship.

The event, now in its 16th year, is scheduled for June 1 to 2 at the University of Technology, Jamaica in St Andrew.

The organisation is targeting 10,000 participants, with registration set at $1200 and individuals expected to raise a minimum of $5,000 before the event.

As a concept, the extended relay, which involves teams of 10 or more members taking turns walking or running around the track for the duration of the 12-hour event, is meant to convey the fact that “cancer never sleeps”. One team member walks or runs at a time, while those awaiting their turn camp around the track and participate in a variety of activities, from karaoke and soca aerobics to the so-called Purple Party.

The first lap of the relay is executed by cancer survivors.

Executive director at the Jamaica Cancer Society, Yulit Gordon, told editors and reporters at this week’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange that while the the organisation seeks to raise $100 million a year to cover programme and operational costs.

Gordon noted that cancer is a major public health issue and quoted Ministry of Health and Wellness figures that indicate that there are approximately 7,000 new cancer cases annually. Three thousand die from the disease each year.

“Cancer accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths in Jamaica. The high number of premature deaths coupled with the economic impact due to the loss of productivity and the exorbitant cost associated with the treatment all serve to impact economic and social development for our society. It is sad to say, but it is expected that this trend will continue as the population ages and as screening becomes more widespread,” Gordon stated at the meeting held at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue office in Kingston.

In terms of the demand on its services, Gordon said approximately 20,000 Jamaicans accessed services offered by the Jamaica Cancer Society in 2018, and that the organisation provided small grants in excess of $5 million to vulnerable individuals.

“…However, like all NGOs (non-governmental organisations) we are not without our challenges and [one] of the key challenges that we continue to experience as an organisation is funding—that’s a major challenge. Each year the Jamaica Cancer Society must generate $100 million to carry out its many programmes. Expenses continue to grow as the dollar fluctuates and the cost of clinical supplies and other operational expenses increase.

“Cancer, as we know, is very expensive to treat and with so many Jamaicans without access to health insurance, there’s an increased demand for support from the Jamaica Cancer Society… Challenges associated with capacity building is also another key challenge for us as an organisation as we are not financially equipped to recruit specialised professionals to carry out some of our major services,” she outlined.

Other challenges include equipment failure with no redundancy, which results in loss of contributions and a reduction in the number of individuals screened.

Over the past 16 years, Relay for Life has raised in excess of $180 million to execute its work, Gordon stated.

“This year, we have a target of $20 million. I am using this opportunity to call on corporate organisations, schools, university campuses, service groups, churches, [and] families to support the Jamaica Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and to help us to realise our goal because we believe that it is achievable if everyone gets involved,” she stated.

Donations for the fund-raising relay can be made through the following:

• Paypal online

• NCB Account No 241639207

• BNS Account No 800-472

•JNBS Account No 000010006960

•Paymaster branches islandwide

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