Lakota East High School students participate in the 2019 Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Last year, the school’s event raised more than $60,000 for the fight against cancer and ranked in the top five high schools per capita in the nation. The students hope to raise more money with their virtual fundraiser tonight. CONTRIBUTED/AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

Lakota East students moving forward with virtual Relay for Life: How to help

Their Relay for Life event, which will be held virtually, will start at 4 p.m. today on Instagram and Twitter accounts both named lehsrelay4life.

“Our current pandemic does not stop the need for money (to be) raised,” said Lauren Rader, the senior chair for the school’s Relay for Life event.

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Like many other events over the past few months, Rader said their school event was scheduled May 8 but was canceled.

“However, our committee is dedicated to ensuring that those affected by cancer still can receive the things they need, especially during these times,” she said.

Donations are being accepted online at relayforlife.org/lakotaeast.

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It’s also a matter of school pride because Lakota East raised more than $60,000 during the 2019 Relay for Life event walking around their stadium’s track. According to Alexandra Houser Vukoder, American Cancer Society communications director, Lakota East ranked in the top five high schools per capita in the nation for their 2019 Relay for Life event.

“We want to try and keep it and be strong with it this year,” Rader said. “Last year we had 500 students participate. Right now we have about 250 students on the page and are hoping to grow it more.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the students have already raised $12,000 for the 2020 event. Rader is also hoping students from rival Lakota West, who had to cancel their event, will participate with Lakota East’s event.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Lakota East event and this will be the first year that it will be a virtual event, It includes splitting the night into two parts:

  • “Honoring Our Fighters,” which will honor 15 survivors and fighters from 4 to 6 p.m.
  • “Lighting the Way Together,” which will allow students to have their special moments of a typical Relay from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The students have reached out to Traci Piccolo Dolby, who is the daughter of the late Brian Piccolo, an NFL player whose life and fight with cancer was depicted in the movie “Brian’s Song.” Rader said Dolby will be sending a video to promote the night and her father’s legacy that will be posted on social media.

Rader said she is also hoping to receive a video from Bronson Arroyo, former Cincinnati Reds pitcher.

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Houser Vukoder said all ACS events in April, May and June have been cancelled because of the pandemic as many of the events are held at large venues such as schools, churches or large public parks.

As of Thursday, those 2020 events impacted by COVID-19 include four in Butler County, six in Cincinnati, 50 in Ohio and more than 1,600 or more than 75 percent nationwide, have been postponed or are transitioning to a virtual experience, she said.

Houser Vukoder said the organization is projecting a 20 to 30 percent decrease in the fundraising through Relay for Life events, adding that spring is the event’s busiest season.

“We are grateful for all the dedication of our volunteers and appreciate the sacrifices they make to support our events,” Houser Vukoder said. “These events will be back, but in the meantime, with courage, determination, and some innovation, we will continue mission by supporting cancer patients, caregivers, survivors, and researchers through digital experiences and other virtual fundraising opportunities.”

While the pandemic has hit nonprofit organizations hard this year, Houser Vukoder said the organization is focusing keeping people informed and that they are still available to help cancer patients and survivors. She also said groups are thinking outside of the box and are using technology to support the annual fundraiser.

“This has really brought out dedication of so many people to support the fight against cancer,” she said.

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