Overnight relay event takes aim at cancer

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Carol Sorgen

Jane Irwin, together with her polar bear team mascot, works to raise money for cancer programs through the Relay for Life of North Baltimore County Towson. Relay for Life events will be held throughout the area this spring.
Photo courtesy of Jane Irwin

When she was a Baltimore County police officer, Jane Irwin took the community’s well-being seriously. Recently retired, Irwin continues doing so, but on a different level.

Previously a participant in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, the 50-year-old Irwin is now leading a team of her own this year at the Relay for Life of North Baltimore County Towson, to be held on Saturday, June 7.

The relay is an organized community fundraising walk that takes place overnight. Teams of people camp out around a track, and team members take turns walking around the track.

Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries participate in the Relay for Life, raising more than $400 million worldwide.

As a team leader, Irwin is recruiting team members through social media efforts, as well as among her former law enforcement colleagues and others.

A personal connection

Irwin first became involved with Relay for Life after the mother of a friend of hers died of breast cancer. Irwin’s brother is also a cancer survivor, and now a police officer whom she knows is confronting breast cancer herself.

“Everyone you know knows someone who has been touched by cancer,” said Irwin.

Besides Irwin’s own driving personality, she has a little help from her team mascot, a stuffed polar bear. Its cuteness factor initially was used to entice people to make donations to support Irwin and the “Freeze Brigade,” a group of hearty souls who take the Polar Bear Plunge every year.

Now the plush pal is doing double duty as the mascot of Irwin’s relay team. “He gets around,” she laughed. Irwin hopes to sign up 25 to 30 people for her team.

Several events

The Relay for Life of North Baltimore County Towson is one of many relays held between April and June to honor cancer survivors, raise awareness about what we can all do to reduce our cancer risk, and raise money to help the American Cancer Society fight the disease.

Among other relays in the area: The Relay for Life of Parkville High School will be held March 15. Loyola University and Eastern Technical High School in Essex will hold their relay on March 29. Johns Hopkins University will hold one on April 5, and UMBC on April 11.

Irwin’s relay will take place on June 7 at Goucher College in Towson. It will begin at 6 p.m. The event includes an opening ceremony to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, to inspire hope by sharing recent accomplishments and progress, and to remind everyone that while we are winning this battle, fighting cancer is a year-round priority.

In addition, there will be a Survivors Lap in which cancer survivors take the first lap around the track to celebrate their victory over cancer, a luminaria ceremony to remember people lost to cancer, and a closing ceremony to celebrate the commitment of all participants to fight the disease. There will also be a full schedule of entertainment and activities.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring people together,” said Irwin. “It’s not only fun, but it’s inspirational as well.”

To become a team member or leader, contact Sheila Staub, Event Chair, Relay for Life of North Baltimore County, at (410) 472-2340, email bmoreinvolved@gmail.com, or visit www.relayforlife.org/NBCMD.