Alyson Tomson arrived in Smithers just four months ago, but she is now a central figure in community fundraising.
Tomson, 51, who moved here from Salmon Arm with her husband Ross, is the new co-ordinator for the Smithers Relay For Life, slated for May 26, in Chandler Park beginning at 1 p.m.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Relay For Life event in Smithers.
The appointment to the position of co-ordinator came as a result of Tomson handing her business card to Angela Young during a curling game.
Young, co-ordinator for the last several Relay For Life days, noticed Tomson was a wedding and events organizer.
“Oh, have I got a job for you,” Tomson recalls with a laugh the first thing Young said after reading her business card.
Saying yes was easy.
Although she is a relative newcomer to Smithers, Tomson has plenty of experience as a co-ordinator and organizer she can apply to lead the Relay For Life event.
In Salmon Arm, Tomson ran her own wedding and event planning company, Aisle Do Weddings & Events, for eight years, as well as co-ordinating the opening ceremonies for the national junior curling championships.
Like many people, Tomson’s life has been touched by cancer, including a sister who had ovarian cancer and an uncle who died from cancer.
“I know lots of people who have had cancer and a few really good friends in Salmon Arm who died from cancer,” Tomson said to highlight some of the motivation behind her decision to take on the position of co-ordinator.
“I think it’s a good cause and thought it was something I can probably do because I believe in it.”
Despite Tomson’s wealth of experience, co-ordinating such an event carries inherent challenges, particularly making sure the volunteers are all trained and ready to go.
Being a relative newcomer to Smithers, however, adds another challenge for Tomson.
“My biggest challenge is finding volunteers because I don’t know many people yet,” Tomson explained.
“Angela’s lived here for years, so she knows a lot of people.
“It’s a bit of a challenge to make sure we have enough help.”
Another challenge for Tomson will be to organize the entertainment portion of the day because the previous entertainment co-ordinator, Allan Banner, has also stepped down from the organizing committee.
“He did a fabulous job, those are big boots to fill,” Tomson said.
Despite the challenges, Tomson is knee deep in preparation, along with the other members of the organizing committee and hopes to make a few changes to the Relay For Life event.
First, Tomson is hoping to bring more involvement from the community, even those who are not participating directly in the relay.
“We’re hoping to make it more of a community event, not just the relay, we want to have more things for the community to do even if they aren’t doing the relay,” Tomson explained.
“We’re going to ask the vendors at the Farmer’s Market and local artisans if they want to set up their booths at the park.”
Part of getting more of the community involved also includes an invitation to the local schools to participate in their own relay with some kind of twist.
“Something fun,” Tomson said with a grin.
With the Relay For Life day just a couple of months away, Tomson is also faced with the challenge of lining up teams to take part in the event.
Last year 26 teams took part in the Smithers Relay For Life event.
As of last week, only five teams had given notice they are participating, but Tomson is still optimistic she will reach her goal of 30 teams.
“I’ve heard this is a last minute town, but I hope they don’t wait until the last minute,” Tomson admitted.
As for a fundraising goal, Tomson, despite being a first-timer at the event, has set the bar high for herself and for the community.
“Last year they raised $97,000 and I’d like to exceed that for sure,” she said.
Although there are challenges, Tomson smiles when asked what the best part is of her role as Relay For Life co-ordinator is.
“Meeting new people and raising awareness about how each person can play a part,” she said.
As for living in Smithers, Tomson said she enjoys the weather, finding the climate dryer than Salmon Arm and not as windy.
But the biggest drawing factor for Tomson, like many of the newcomers and visitors to Smithers, is the scenery.
“It’s beautiful and the people are so friendly,” she said.
Persons interested in volunteering can call Tomson at (250) 917-9198, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Persons interested in forming a relay team can also contact Tomson, or they can visit www.relaybc.ca, or visit the Canadian Cancer Society office, 1070 Main St., or call (250) 847-0230.