Speedway Community Champions Hope

Matt Ochs, American Cancer Society Relay For Life volunteer from Indiana, shares the story of his communities success with Relay For Life. Read below and watch the video to learn more!

If you had asked me 7 years ago what Relay For Life was, I would have told you that it was something that my mom walked in for my dad.  Some type of 24 hour walk against Cancer.  My Father had Prostate cancer and I wasn’t really too concerned.  His prognosis was good, he seemed healthy, and it was treatable.  In April of 2009 my mother told our family that she had Lung Cancer.  On July 14th, 2009 she passed away due to complications of her surgery to remove the growth.  That November, my brother Mark informed us that he had Liposarcoma.   It was then that my family decided to form a team (Carol’s Casserole Crew) in memory of our mom, and to fight back for our father and brother.  Our family run team (with the help of so many friends and family members) has raised over $125K in 6 years.    Over the course of those six years, I have seen the devastation of Cancer and I no longer Relay for my family.  I Relay for all those people that don’t have anyone fighting for them.   I Relay for the quiet sufferers who don’t know that there are 100’s of thousands of people out there supporting them.   I Relay for Hope. 


I think the biggest factors that make the Speedway Relay so special is our Community Involvement, the Venue we have it at, and most importantly, the Event Leadership Team we have.    Speedway is a very small community (14K +- people) and our Relay wouldn’t be possible without the help of our Chamber of Commerce, Our Schools, our Town Government, and our Police & Fire Departments.  Our Chamber uses their connections within the local community to allow us to use a huge portable Stage from a local business.   Our Schools are getting more and more involved and that just drives the excitement level up through out the year as schools compete against each other. To see every school represented at the event is just a great feeling.   Our Town allows us to use the entire park for free and gives us every opportunity to promote the event on our local TV Channel, as well as come to the Town Meetings and promote it.   They SUPPORT us 110%.   Our Police and Fire Department are always there on the day of Relay walking the track, filling up the Dunk Tanks, or putting people in “jail”.     It just feels like the ENTIRE community is behind it.   And our venue is a Park where there are playgrounds in the center for the kids, as well as baseball diamonds.  There is nothing better than to have a baseball game going on and a family coming over afterwards to see what’s all the excitement about.  BUT, as I said before, our event doesn’t exist without the hard work and dedication of our ELT.   A majority of the committee have been involved for 6 plus years.  They are strong minded, dedicated, passionate people who put their hearts and souls into making sure that this event is representative of what a “Relay” should be ….. Community Engaged, Great Venue, Teams Engaged, High Energy, Something for Everyone, Lots of activity, an event where someone walking by wants to come over and see what’s happening,  and most importantly, something that people want to come back to once they’ve experienced it.  


What made this year’s Relay so special.  That’s a tricky question, because everyone has a different moment.   For me, it will be the moment that an older lady came up to our Registration Table and asked “What is this?” and I explained to her the concept of Relay and why we do what we do, and she broke down and cried and said that her husband had passed away just recently due to lung cancer.   I led her down to a team that were selling luminaries and she proceeded to have one made for him.   That night as we had finished up reading all the names for luminaries and started taking our Silent Lap, I spotted her on the track.  She and I walked arm in arm quietly reminiscing about her husband and crying along the way.   She was truly moved by the event and it made me realize how important this event is – not only as a means to fight cancer, but as a way in which we can truly help those hurting heal and move forward.