Local American Cancer Society volunteers are working hard to raise funds and awareness during the pandemic despite not being able to hold their traditional fundraisers, such as Relay for Life.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) continues to infuse energy into its annual Relay For Life campaigns, even though the pandemic forced the suspension of its 2020 relays last spring.

“We certainly are back in the swing of things as we follow the school calendar and build excitement for Relay,” said ACS Senior Community Development Manager Tammy Schoonover. “Cancer hasn’t stopped and neither have our Relay For Life supporters.”

ACS is squarely focused on raising funds for life-saving research that leads to new breakthrough treatments and improved cures. Because of the pandemic, 2020 funding may be reduced by 50 percent, which would represent the lowest level this century for ACS, the nation’s leading private nonprofit funder of cancer research.

“We’re depending on our supporters to help us change that,” Schoonover said. “So, during this time, we are still moving the mission forward by recruiting/securing teams and volunteers to continue funding the mission.”

ACS also continues its advocacy work, lending support to patients who are enduring a cancer journey while dealing with COVID-19. It’s also raising awareness about the importance of screening and mammograms, which have seen an alarming decline because of the pandemic.

A National Cancer Institute study revealed that there may be 20,000 more colorectal and breast cancer-related deaths beginning in 2021 because the medical community is losing the advantage of early detection.

“We’re seeing now that some of those numbers are rebounding, and people are able to return to screening in some places,” said ACS Senior Vice President for Prevention Laura Makaroff. “We don’t want people to forget about the importance of their cancer screenings. How to do that in this time is something you really need to talk to your healthcare provider about. It depends on your individual risk factors, your previous screening history and where you are with the screenings that are due for you.”

Advocacy and awareness are just two more reasons ACS needs to continue garnering community support. While details for upcoming Relays For Life, such as the 2021 FishHawk Relay For Life, remain in development, volunteers still can get involved by starting a team, joining the planning committee or hosting a ‘Share the Light’ night in their own community.

To register and start fundraising, please go to www.relayforlife.org/fishhawkfl. For more information, please contact Schoonover at 815-590-2961 or tammy.schoonover@cancer.org, or Event Lead Leslie Adams at 404-0212 or ladams6@ymail.com.