Organizers hope revamped, shortened Relay For Life will rekindle participation

Town Crier File Photo
Organizers plan several major changes for this year’s Los Altos Relay For Life, a departure from last year’s activities, above.

The annual Los Altos Relay For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society started with a bang in 2004, with hundreds participating and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised.

But the 24-hour event lost steam after a few years as participants and organizers grew weary of the massive effort and time commitment required. Organizers realized that major changes were needed to keep the event afloat.

Enter Relay 2.0, a revamped event scheduled June 12 at Hillview Park that completely changes the format while keeping the Relay’s overall purpose intact. Instead of a 24-hour marathon, this year’s affair runs 4-9 p.m. Instead of multiple laps, 2.0 will feature a single 2.5-mile lap along streets surrounding the park. Other new elements include a flamingo decoration contest, picnic site judging and a relay, with runners passing a torch. The luminaria – candle-filled bags with memorial messages lining the track – have been replaced by “messages of hope,” in which participants can attach artwork and notes to a decorated chain-link fence.

“This is a less complicated, more compressed experience,” said Duncan MacVicar, co-chairman of this year’s event with former Mountain View High School principal Pat Hyland.

MacVicar, who with his wife Jeanne has been a mainstay of the annual event, said organizers began last summer “reinventing” the relay.

“The last few years, it wasn’t new, it wasn’t fresh enough to bring in new faces,” he said.

“We’re all in a place where we are expecting something new at all times,” Hyland said. “In the heart of Silicon Valley, there are so many things to rally around – the shiniest object is going to get your attention.”

MacVicar and Hyland believe that a more streamlined event and a relaxed setting – a picnic in the park – will be more family oriented and generate increased participation.

“We heard them (past participants) in terms of valuing their time, valuing their energy,” Hyland said.

“I must say, the American Cancer Society has been very supportive of this process and others have done it (changed the format),” MacVicar said.

Hyland is in her 10th year of remission after a bout with breast cancer. She is currently an administrator at Foothill College. Although she acknowledged that the American Cancer Society has been criticized for what some deem its excessive overhead, Hyland noted that a wide range of nationwide nonprofit organizations typically have a minimum of 20 percent overhead, as the American Cancer Society does.

“More dollars have been put toward research than a lot of other places,” she said.

Fundraising is one thing, but education and healing are other significant elements of the annual Relay.

“We celebrate survivors,” MacVicar said. “We give people the opportunity to remember (their loved ones) and educate themselves about cancer.”

MacVicar recalled one Relay For Life participant who discovered that a colonoscopy is highly recommended for men over 50 to detect colon cancer. The man, in his early 50s, had the procedure done, learned he had cancer and was treated.

“The Relay saved his life,” MacVicar said. “The question (for many) is: ‘I have cancer – what do I do now?’ There are more people in Los Altos who know because of Relay For Life.”


To register for the event and for more information, visit

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