The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is an event fundraising program representing the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported and that one day – cancer will be eliminated. The primary goal of a Relay for Life event is to build a sense of community among those individuals bound together by this life-changing disease while raising money to fund cancer research. The structure of the event maximizes the connections it creates by involving patients, survivors and supporters in each stage of ACS’s mission, while delivering an experience that resonates with participants and connects them with the cause.

Cancer never takes a break, and neither do those who band together to fight it, so the Relay for Life lasts overnight and can last as long as 24 hours. ACS demonstrated event thought leadership by crafting an experience with a distinct tie-in to the condition it aims to eradicate, making it more evocative and meaningful to participants. Relay for Life teams bring together people from all walks of life to camp out and take turns either walking or running around the designated track, so the design of the event also encourages teamwork and camaraderie, which increases participation rates and donation efforts.

The event program also is tied closely with the cause, and it recognizes the many different groups of people impacted by cancer. There are three main parts to each Relay for Life event: the Survivors Lap, the Luminaria Ceremony and the Fight Back Ceremony. These symbolic traditions serve to promote the core message elements of the entire Relay for Life event process: celebrate, remember, and fight back. By teaching both survivors and supporters to celebrate the journey, remember the past and fight for a better future, Relay for Life hopes to create real and lasting change in the fight against cancer as it supports vital cancer research. ACS is able to remain top of mind with participants by creating urgency through the mission statement that cancer can be defeated in this lifetime.

Relay for Life demonstrates the importance of crafting a value proposition that is engaging to a broad audience and an event that takes on emotional significance for participants. ACS has shown true thought leadership in its ability to create a real sense of community within individuals united by a single common experience–the fight against cancer in all its capacities. By starting with a compelling perspective on how to face a difficult situation and then creating an event that embodies the struggle against the disease, the American Cancer Society has increased both awareness and participation for its cause.

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