GARDNER ― A group of local amateur radio enthusiasts will be transmitting this year’s annual Relay for Life of Greater Gardner fundraiser at Mount Wachusett Community College to listeners across the globe.
Members of the Mohawk Amateur Radio Club, which was founded in the 1980s, will bring their communications trailer to the site and set up a “Special Event Station” to transmit information about the Relay and chat with other radio users around the world.
“We will call out that we’re a special event station and then other people will contact us, either from around the world or inside the U.S., and then we’ll just give out a little blurb about what the Relay for Life is all about – we’re basically using an amateur radio wave to promote the event,” explained Kevin Erickson, the club’s president.
The annual two-day American Cancer Society fundraiser, during which teams walk the MWCC track throughout the night, will kick off at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 9.
How are amateur radio users transmitting awareness about the Relay event?
By regulation, the club’s amateur members were not permitted to use the airwaves to solicit for money for the annual American Cancer Society event, Ericson added.
“But we certainly can raise public awareness about the cause,” he added.
Club members would keep track of everyone they made contact with over the air during the event, and later send each operator what is called a “QSL card,” which is a postcard that serves as written confirmation that a transmission had been received.
“In our case, our postcards will have pictures of our trailer and some images from the Relay for Life as well,” Erickson said, adding that the club had set up special event stations at several previous Relay events.
Many of the operators who contacted the state during previous events had cancer stories of their own to share, a reminder that the disease touched people from around the globe, said Erickson, who lives in Gardner.
“You try to keep the conversations short, but we do hear from people who say ‘Yeah, I’m a survivor too,’” he said. “And we hear these great, quick little stories from people from all over talking about how they survived cancer or that somebody they know is a survivor. It’s kind of amazing.”
Is amateur radio an effective way to spread awareness around the globe?
Club member Jack Burgoyne, a 20-year cancer survivor himself, said transmitting from the Relay for Life event was a great way to send around the world that those touched by cancer were not fighting alone.
“Using our hobby to get on the airwaves and carry the message that cancer is very much still with us, but that there is safety in numbers and, more importantly, there is support in numbers,” said Burgoyne, who lives in Ashburnham.
“As an amateur operator, I can tell you personally that when I get on the air from the (MWCC) grounds and I tell people on the other end of the radio conversation who we are, where we are, and what we are doing, the response is just overwhelming,” Burgoyne added.
Transmitting from the Relay event also served as way to raise funds and awareness about the radio club, said Erickson. He said the club’s members welcomed visitors at the event to stop by and see the trailer and check out the radios.
“We love operating from the event and it’s fun showing amateur radio to the public and getting them interested in what we do,” Erickson said.
Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, allows licensed users are permitted to operate on various amateur band frequencies as assigned by the federal government. The hobby allows operators to communicate with people around the world and participate in potential emergency situations.
“One of (amateur radio’s) purposes is, if called upon, to assist in natural disasters when regular lines of communication are down,” Erickson said. “Obviously, we’re not having day-to-day emergencies, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the privileges that you’re given with these frequencies that you can use to talk to other amateurs across the country and around the world.”
Is the appeal of amateur radio on the upswing?
And part of the appeal of amateur radio, Erickson added, was the fact that an operator’s signal was transmitted to anyone and everyone on the same frequency.
“When you call on the radio looking for another station to call you back, you never know who you’re going to get – it could be from next door or it could be someone clear across the world,” Erickson explained. “So that aspect of it is kind of cool.”
Anyone with the proper receiver can listen to the Mohawk Amateur Radio Club’s special event station, which will be designated N1WW, by scanning the following amateur radio bands: the 20 meter 14.150-14.350 MHz and 40 meter 7.125-7.300 MHz during the daytime hours, or the 80 meter 3.800-4.000 MHz during the nighttime hours.
The club, which has over 20 current members, holds monthly meetings and regularly sponsors classes for anyone interested in becoming a licensed amateur radio operator, according to Erickson.
The club will hold a weekend Field Day event in front of the big chair at the Helen Mae Sauter school on Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25, for any members of the public who would like to watch amateur radio operators at work and learn more about the hobby.
This article originally appeared on Gardner News: Greater Gardner Relay for Life Mohawk Amateur Radio Club