Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Relay for Life Rally to benefit local American Cancer Society

By MaryAnne C. Shults

Stage rally teams will be completing final preparations to their cars on the morning of Friday, June 1, eager to head out to the clay and gravel roads in and around the state forests surrounding beautiful and historic Wellsboro, Penn. for the oldest and fastest performance rally in North America.

Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the
Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.
Photo credit: lonnykronen/Flickr (CC license)
However, for those who are inquisitive about the challenge of rally, but prefer a more leisurely pace in their own car, the annual Relay for Life Rally will start about same time. Plus, it's open to anyone with a driver's license.

"The Relay for Life Rally is a pleasant tour throughout the countryside surrounding Wellsboro and Mansfield. The event is simple for a novice rallyist to follow, however will still be challenging for the seasoned rallyist," said event chairman and rallymaster Kurt Thiel. "All competitors need is a watch that can time to the second, a working odometer and a good sense of humor."

In its 23rd year, the rally is a major annual fundraiser for the Tioga County American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, while acquainting the curious to the world of time-speed-distance road rallying. It runs concurrently with the WasteManagement Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally® (STPR®) and is organized by the Rochester-based Finger Lakes Region of theSports Car Club of America (SCCA).

Along the way, competitors pass hidden checkpoints where they will be timed. Each vehicle accumulates points for being either early or late to the control point. At the end, points are totaled, and lowest score wins.

This time-speed-distance (TSD) road rally, designed for any legal vehicle, runs within the legal speed limit on high-quality paved and unpaved roads in Tioga County. This event does not use the forest roads of the performance rally.

The route instructions use "tulip diagrams," which are small illustrations showing the directions, with incremental and overall mileages listed.  Special equipment is not required to compete, and the route is simple to follow.

Four classes divide the competitors, all based on both experience and equipment used, with awards presented for each class.

Relay For Life fundraiser events give communities "a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease." For these 24-hour-long events, teams of people camp out at a local venue and take turns walking or running around a track or path, according to RelayforLife.org. As a team, they solicit sponsorship or individual donations.

There are several key players in the Relay for Life Rally, including a group of local seniors who compose a team, led by Shirley Spencer.  The group came on board several years ago to assist with various duties of the rally including coordinating the checkpoint workers and registration. The 12-member team, named Keystone Kops, stemmed from another team made up of local law enforcement, directly involved with Spencer's family.

Spencer's passion for Relay for Life is personal. Her daughter, Vicki Young, 48, is a breast cancer survivor.

"When she was diagnosed, that very day she found out, we went out and walked [for the Relay for Life]," Spencer said. "I saw my daughter's doctor, and he hugged me. I knew right there and then the next year I was going to have a team."

Spencer found the stories from others involved in the Relay for Life fundraiser inspiring.

"One woman's son had leukemia," she said. "Everybody wanted to share their stories."

Entry for the Relay for Life Rally is open now. Visit www.flr-scca.com/rally/2012 for an informational flier and entry form. There is no limit to the number of people in each car, but the organizers have limited the total number of entries to 50 teams.

The Wellsboro Relay for Life is Friday, July 13, at the Wellsboro High School, starting at 10 a.m. Information is available at www.relayforlife.org.