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Cancer charity fundraising hit by Covid restrictions

Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre (File photograph)

A charity dedicated to fighting cancer has said the pandemic has hampered its fundraising efforts, with its largest event of the year achieving less than half of its original goal.

The Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre raised $191,500 with last month’s Relay for Life event to subsidise the cost for on-island cancer treatment - more than $300,000 below it’s original $500,000 goal

While donations continue to come in, the initial results have forced the charity to lower its goal to $300,000.

Azuree Williams, events and programmes manager for the health centre, said further donations were coming in “slow and steady” thanks to the hard work of a smaller number of teams.

While the event usually has around 120 teams sign up to participate in the annual fundraiser, only around 40 teams signed up this year.

Ms Williams said: “Some felt that because it wasn’t going to be a physical event, they wouldn’t participate and would just donate.”

However she said the side effect of fewer participants was fewer people holding events and fundraisers to bolster the effort.

The charity’s 2020 fundraiser was similarly hard struck by the Covid-19 pandemic, raising $300,000 less than past years.

Ms Williams said that the organising team was “heartbroken” by the loss of an in-person event because of the ongoing pandemic.

Ms Williams said: “Plan A was to have a physical event and the committee was excited. Everyone was excited.

“Then there was the lock down in December and all the restrictions being put in place again put a damper on things.

“We always put public safety first, and a lot of our survivors fall into the vulnerable person category, so we knew we had to Plan B it.”

Ms Williams said that despite the challenges, organisers were still able to put on a three-pronged event to “celebrate, remember and fight back”.

While Relay for Life usually revolves around a 24-hour in-person event, this year’s fundraiser was primarily held on Facebook because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Both the Opening Ceremony, which recognised those who have survived their battle with cancer, and the Fight Back event were hosted on the charity’s Facebook page with music performances broadcast live from Dockyard.

Ms Williams said: “We were still able to bring a little bit of that relay energy and vibe of excitement and festivity. It felt almost like Relay for Life.”

She said that despite increased regulations, the charity was able to host its annual Luminaria ceremony – which pays tribute to those who were lost to cancer – with a drive-through experience at the Botanical Gardens.

Ms Williams said: “It really was breathtaking. Some people drove through twice because they were so impressed by the beauty and the meaning of it.”

Ms Williams explained that the funds raised through Relay for Life – the charity’s biggest fundraiser of the year – were critical to help cover the cost for cancer treatments in Bermuda.

The charity helps about 860 patients a year receive medical care and has subsidised $2.2 million of medical expenses for those whose insurance does not cover 100 per cent of the cost.

Ms Williams said: “People need to focus on getting well and healing, not on worrying about how you are going to be able to pay for radiation therapy.”

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Published June 10, 2021 at 8:10 am (Updated June 10, 2021 at 8:10 am)

Cancer charity fundraising hit by Covid restrictions

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