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Casino Workers Raise Money for Relay for Life


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Relay for Life's logoRelay for Life is a recurring event created by the American Cancer Society (ACS) to raise money for the charity. The events are also known for the way in which they build camaraderie amongst communities and pay respect to those who are battling/have battled cancer. Any person can choose to participate in a Relay for Life event. This summer, employees at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana hosted a relay event that raised $10,000 toward the fight against cancer.

The relay was Horseshoe Hammond's third such event. Employees, 324 in total, walked in shifts for 24 hours at the Horseshoe Venue and covered 2,194 miles. After each lap through the theater, walkers received a bead to add to their “band of hope.” The growing bracelets served as inspiration and encouragement to the walkers, who were exhausted by the time the overnight relay ended.

To increase Horseshoe Hammond's overall step total, workers on the casino floor wore pedometers during the 24 hour relay even if they weren't walking the track. All steps taken by employees during the designated 24 hours counted toward the total time walked for the fundraiser.

Many workers at the Horseshoe related personal stories about how cancer has, in one way or another, affected their lives. Human Resources VP Dawn Reynolds-Pettit talked about how “so many of us have personal stories . . . about how cancer has affected (our) lives.” The hope, she added, is to “find a cure so those fighting live to enjoy another birthday, another day with family and friends.”

The casino paid respect to employees and their loved ones who have been impacted by cancer by holding a luminaria ceremony toward the end of the event. A luminaria is a lit votive candle inside a paper bag that may have a name and/or picture of a loved one on the outside. During the ceremony, the Venue's track was lit up for the loved ones of Horseshoe Hammond employees who have been affected by cancer.

Casino Employees Participate in Relay for Life at Other Locations

Kim Bartlett
Kim Bartlett

The Horseshoe workers' participation in Relay for Life is not a novel thing. In 2013, employees at the Grand Biloxi in Mississippi raised $4,000 for the Harrison County Relay for Life chapter. During the month prior to the relay, the casino sponsored a car wash, book sale, bake sale, and other events to raise money for the charity. The Caesars Foundation, a faction of Caesars Entertainment, supplemented the casino's earnings through a $1,500 fund-matching program. This contribution bumped the Grand Biloxi team's total donation up to $5,500.

During the hours of the actual event, the workers participated in the relay at Biloxi High School. They walked, jogged, or ran the track throughout the night under the leadership of their captain, HR Generalist Kim Bartlett.

Popular: Casino-Themed Relay for Life Events

Relay for Life doesn't always take place at a casino, but groups often incorporate a casino theme into their event. Last April, an event hosted at East Lincoln High School in Denver, Colorado included a casino night fundraiser at a nearby restaurant. Critics sometimes question whether charity-sponsored casino night activities are legal in the United States. The answer to this question, in most states, is yes. When organizations wish to raise money for charity, they are permitted by law to use a casino theme without a casino license.

Companies like On the Go Casino help organizations set up their casino nights. These events are legal and accessible to all ages, including children. That's because “funny money,” or play money, is used and there is no obligation to buy anything. Players use a funny money voucher to obtain chips for blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps. Chips may later be exchanged for prizes.

An exception to the legality of a fundraising casino night is the state of Georgia. Gambling-themed charity events are forbidden in that state, even when the object is to raise money for a charitable cause.

How a Relay for Life Team is Created

Anyone can participate in a Relay for Life event, but a team must first be created. Teams consist of around 15 people. The team holds an initial meeting to create its name, choose a captain, and decide how it will raise money for the cause. A monetary goal is set at this time. Relay for Life proceeds are typically raised via a booth at the event, staffed by team members, that sells a good or service. Common goods sold include bake sale items, T-shirts, and used books. Donations online can also be taken. Each member that earns $100 receives a free Relay for Life T-shirt from ACS.

How to start a new team at 'Relay for Life'

Once a team has been assembled, the participants register at the website RelayForLife.org. Participants under the age of 18 are welcome to join, but must complete additional paperwork for legal reasons. Team members typically camp together in a tent at the relay, as the event goes through the night.

When it comes to raising money via Relay for Life, people get creative with the ways in which they get their funds. Gambling, either at a real casino site or at a one-night fundraiser, is a great way for people to have fun while wagering money on a worthy cause. The ACS has been sponsoring Relay for Life since 1985, when surgeon and marathon runner Dr. Gordon Klatt decided he wanted to do something to help combat cancer. Klatt combined his love for running with his desire to help others, and quickly after that, Relay for Life was born.

Fight Back Ceremony Caps Events

Toward the end of every 24-hour event is what is called a Fight Back Ceremony. At this ceremony, participants make a pledge to continue devoting their energies to cancer education, awareness, and prevention. The ceremony is an empowering and life-affirming affair for all who participate.