The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is returning to something closer to its traditional format when it kicks off Saturday on Main Street in Berlin.

Starting at 3 p.m. in front of Stevenson Church and the Worcester Youth and Family Counseling office, participants and donors will be encouraged to stroll down the town’s business district, interacting with the variety of businesses along the way.

“This year we’ll be promoting for people to walk through town. In the past we had a literal track,” said Relay volunteer chair Dawn Hodge. “This year is more of a loose-flow, we just want you to walk around town to the different shops.”

The event will also include children’s games and free ice cream from Island Creamery for survivors. Sisters Wine, Gourmet and Gift Store will donate 20 percent of its proceeds to Relay for Life.

Last year, Relay for Life was limited to a drive-thru format due to covid-19 concerns. In years past the event had been held at Frontier Town off Route 611 and would last from 6 p.m. until the following morning.

Hodge estimated that 50 people showed up for the limited event last year but hopes she will see a couple hundred for the event’s 27th year.

“We used to crowd around a campfire at Frontier Town, but it’s completely different from what it’s been in the past because of covid and rearranging around that,” Hodge said. “This year, we’re going to welcome everyone and have our survivors and caregivers welcome everyone.”

The event will include gifts for cancer survivors such as pins and gift cards from every volunteer team, reading aloud the names of survivors, a raffle and luminaria —small, paper lanterns that can be purchased in the name of a loved one.

Hodge said they hope to raise $100,000, but that it is a “stretch goal” because of how different the event must be to accommodate covid concerns.

“We’ve raised well over a million dollars (in the event’s history),” she said. “We’ve been a nationally recognized relay in the past until covid pretty much.”

The funds raised by Relay for Life are redirected to services that will help cancer research and awareness on the Eastern Shore.

“The money stays locally because we don’t have a research program in the area. Research is No. 1 — money that goes to research benefits everyone in the community,” Hodge said. “People have not been getting their screenings because of covid. The sooner you can get it diagnosed — or if you can get it diagnosed beforehand — it’s less expensive to treat it preliminarily than down the road. It literally saves lives getting screened.”

Partnering organizations and businesses for the Relay for Life include Stevenson Church, Sterling Tavern, World of Toys, On What Grounds, Victorian Charm, Bruder Hill and Bruder Home, Boxcar on Main, Una Bella Salute, the Dusty Lamb and Island Creamery.

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This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on Oct. 1.

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