Greater Attleboro Relay for Life goes virtual

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Two major Attleboro-area fundraisers to benefit the American Cancer Society will be virtual events in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced states, including Massachusetts, to prohibit large gatherings.

The cancer society, citing health and safety concerns, made the decision against holding in-person Relay For Life events through the end of June.

The decision affects both the 22nd annual Greater Attleboro Relay For Life, which had been scheduled June 12-13 at Norton High School, and the Relay For Life of Mansfield-Foxboro-Sharon, which had been scheduled June 20-21 at the Ahern Middle School in Foxboro.

A message from the cancer society posted on both relays’ web sites reassures all those involved in the events that the cancer society’s mission to help cancer patients will continue despite the absence of outdoor events that typically attract hundreds of participants, volunteers and spectators, and raise thousands of dollars for the cancer society.

We have a responsibility to continue to protect the safety of our volunteers, patients and staff so this very difficult decision will ensure that the health and safety needs of those who rely on us are fully met,” the message reads. “Despite the current devastating impact of COVID-19, the needs of cancer patients never stops, nor does the relentless pursuit of our mission. Relay For Life must continue as well, regardless of how different it may look from any other year.”

With that in mind, both the Greater Attleboro and Mansfield-Foxboro-Sharon relays plan to participate in a virtual relay event on Sunday, June 7, called Hope from Home, which will be conducted in coordination with their counterparts in Maine and New Hampshire.

That event will incorporate many of the themes that the June relays would have had, including luminaira lit for cancer survivors or cancer victims and opening and closing ceremonies.

In addition, on June 12, when the Greater Attleboro Relay would have been held in Norton, the relay’s web site and social media outlets will feature a slide show of the artwork featured in the February “Luminaira” exhibit at the Attleboro Arts Museum as well as video tributes by some of the performers who would have been a part of the event.

Both events are currently in the planning stages, and smaller events could be added in the weeks and months ahead.

In an email to the relays’ participants, Brittney Toth, the cancer society’s regional community development manager and the liaison to the volunteer organizing committees responsible for putting together both events, said the cancer society remains committed to being a resource for cancer patients and their families.

We know how passionate you are about our mission,” she wrote, “and want to assure you that the American Cancer Society remains available to provide information, support, and guidance to patients and families 24 hours a day, seven days a week via our free helpline, 1-800-227-2345, and our website, cancer.org.”

The Greater Attleboro relay includes most Attleboro area communities, including Attleboro, North Attleboro, Norton, Plainville and Rehoboth. To find out about more about the virtual events being planned for the Greater Attleboro Relay, go to www.relayforlife.org/greaterattleboroma. For more information about the Mansfield-Foxboro-Sharon event, email Toth at brittney.toth@cancer.org or go to secure.acsevents.org/site/STR?pg=entry&fr_id=95390.