Each year, the Rhinelander community and the American Cancer Society team up to hold the Relay for Life, a fund raising event that honors those who have battled cancer. This year’s Relay for Life is set for June 14 at the Mike Webster Stadium at Rhinelander High School.
While the relay always proves to be successful, it’s the work of the volunteers that deserve recognition for ensuring the evening goes smoothly.
Rhinelander resident Bill Vancos has been volunteering for the Relay for Life event for a long time. When the event first began in Rhinelander in the early 1990s under the name “Making Strides,” Bill and his friend Jim Hagen served as co-chairs on the board and since then have been active volunteers for the society.
Bill’s early involvement with the American Cancer Society came from a battle lost by a family member at a young age. “I lost my mother to lung cancer when I was only 19, so ever since then, supporting survivors and honoring victims while looking to find a cure has been of great importance to me,” he said.
Through volunteering, Bill finds an ultimately rewarding feeling in knowing that his involvement with community organizations contributes positively to those in the area who may need assistance or support. “Volunteering has always given me a sense of satisfaction,” he said. “Since retiring, it’s given me a sense of purpose in knowing that what I’m doing is helping others.”
His recent retirement as the human resource manager at the paper mill in Rhinelander has allowed him time to volunteer for the local organizations he’s most passionate about. “I’m very active in volunteering for numerous causes in the area,” Vancos said. “I wear many different hats, so it’s a nice feeling when you’re able to tie organizations together in a way that benefits each equally.”
His work with the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry as public relations coordinator led him to the idea of intertwining Relay for Life with the donation of food to the pantry.
“We held a canned goods donation drive last year before the event in which we used the canned products, instead of sand, as weights to hold the lit luminary bags in place around the track the night of the relay,” said Vancos. “At the time of the event, we had received nearly 600 pounds of canned foods that we were able to donate to the food pantry afterwards.”
The 2013 canned goods drive, “Tuna Two’fer,” focuses specifically on cans of tuna that will be placed inside the luminary bags again this year. “I decided to focus on cans of tuna, as we ran into the problem that some of the taller cans of food last year caused the candles inside the luminary bags to be elevated, which altered how the bag illuminated,” said Bill. Due to the shorter height of tuna cans, Bill believes the illumination will appear more unified as the bags light the track for participants.
Upon completion of the Relay for Life, all cans of tuna will be donated to the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry to help community members in need. There are 10 collection sites within the city for people to drop off cans and the drive will continue until the end of the month, with a goal of 1,000 cans donated by May 31. The collection sites are located at various banks and credit unions in Rhinelander, as well as at the paper mill, Printpack and Nativity School.
For more information about the Relay for Life in Oneida County or to learn more about volunteering, call Bill Vancos at (715) 360-0400 or click here.