This annual fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society was created in 2019 by James Moffat ’20, with support from his brother, Jacob ’20, after their mother was diagnosed with cancer. This year, their brother Ryan Moffat is one of the three UCC relay organizers, along with fellow Year 12 students Jack Guilfoyle and John Voudouris. Ryan’s sister, Elizabeth, is a member of the Bishop Strachan School’s executive team.
“Cancer became a part of my family's life five years ago when my cousin was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of cancer called Sarcoma,” writes Ryan. “She sadly lost her battle at the age of 22. Two weeks later my mother was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour called glioblastoma, for which there is still no cure at this time. She lost her battle in December of 2019. The fight we saw in my cousin and my mother each day is what inspired my older brother, James, to create this event which first ran in October of 2019. My mom was with us for the first-ever relay, and seeing how this event brought everyone together made it really special for her.”
Despite its sombre undertones, the Relay for Life is a joyous event that celebrates life and brings students from COSSOT (Coalition of Single-Sex Schools of Toronto) together. Teams of eight to 15 students from the schools spend four hours running laps on the Oval’s track, with one team member doing a lap before handing off to another. Meanwhile, there will be food, information tents, a DJ, live bands and activities, including the favourite: a mechanical bull. There will also be a mascot race featuring the COSSOT mascots with a trophy for the winner.
Organizers have encouraged team members to dress in spirit wear to promote cohesion. There will be prizes for school spirit, as well as for the team and individual raising the most money.
Attendees find the event very moving. It kicks off with a speech by a cancer survivor, followed by a lap led by all the survivors in attendance. As it gets dark, there will be a ceremony with participants lighting candles placed in paper bags in honour of a survivor or in memory of a loved one; they will illuminate the track.
The Relay for Life takes place rain or shine.
“If people can survive cancer, students can survive a bit of rain,” says Jack Guilfoyle.
This year’s sign-ups from schools have reached record numbers. And the executive team from UCC, BSS, Crescent School and Havergal College is eager to exceed last year’s $180,000 raised for Canadian Cancer Society programs.
“We want to keep the event growing and the momentum building,” says John Voudouris, also UCC’s community service steward. “We’ve all been affected by cancer and this allows people to make the connection.”