Relay for Life celebrates 10 years

By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

You’re never too young to make a difference.

Elementary and intermediate school students in Brandon have raised nearly $13,000 in the last five years to fight cancer.

“It is awesome and a remarkable thing,” said Jeanne Burnicle, co-organizer of Relay Recess and Relay Field Day with her daughter, Alyssa, a Brandon Middle School eighth grader.

Kids from Oakwood and Harvey Swanson elementaries and Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School will be recognized during a special lap at 4 p.m., June 3, at Relay for Life of North Oakland at Friendship Park, 3380 W. Clarkston Road in Lake Orion.

Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year as a participant in the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event, in which teams of people take turns walking laps. The formerly 24-hour walk-a-thon is now a 10 a.m.-midnight rally, and has been renamed locally as Relay for Life of North Oakland due to joining with the Oxford and Lake Orion relays, but while the event has seen several alterations in the past decade, one thing that hasn’t changed is the commitment to fighting cancer by long-time participants like Burnicle.

She joined Relay seven years ago, noting that she has lost too many family members and friends to cancer, including her grandmother, her husband’s grandmother, and Kristi Martin, a former Brandon teacher and mother of three who died 5 years ago at the age of 42.

When Burnicle learned ACS would roll out the Relay Recess to get kids involved, she stepped up to implement the program in this community. Each year, in late April or early May, the schools host pep assemblies to build excitement, and children then begin their fundraising efforts, which includes bringing in dimes to fill water bottles at school.

At each school’s field day, they hold a mini Relay for Life, doing fun, silly-themed laps at school, and all who participated in fundraising efforts receive certificates.

“So many people are affected by cancer and the kids open up and share about their own family members,” said Burnicle. “It’s very sweet.”

All are welcome at the 10th annual Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville June 3, which features an opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m., a survivor ceremony at noon, with lunch for survivors and their caregivers at 12:30 p.m., the Relay Recess recognition lap at 4 p.m., live entertainment and activities throughout the day, and an emotionally moving luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m.

“I would love to see everyone come out for the 10th anniversary of Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville and even though it is not in Ortonville, it is close so we can celebrate,” said Burnicle. “If you don’t help, we can’t fight the fight.”

For more information, visit, or contact Chris Rettich at 586-216-9471 or email