BLUE BELL -- Last year at this time, on two successive Saturday nights, 350 people filled a massive room at St. Helena Church in Blue Bell for a lively night of dinner, trivia and camaraderie. Those two trivia nights collectively raised about $50,000 for the American Cancer Society.

But what a difference a year makes. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to rage, gatherings like the Trivia Night fundraiser are simply out of the question. But so is cancellation for the organizers of this event. Undaunted by the challenges, three dedicated American Cancer Society Relay For Life volunteers — Lori Freed, of Blue Bell, and Wendy Blum and Stacey DeMichele, of Upper Dublin — have converted their famed fundraiser into a virtual trivia night.

Fortunately for them, their professional emcee, Lafayette Hill resident Bill McMenamin, founder of McM Entertainment, has been hosting virtual trivia events since early in the pandemic. As a result, the 12th annual American Cancer Society Trivia Night will be held this year as a virtual event on Saturday evening, Jan. 23.

“While the virtual aspect adds some complications, it’s worth the effort because it also adds the ability to engage with friends and family of all ages in any location,” said DeMichele, a cancer survivor. She continued, “With so many of us sequestered at home this year, the virtual event provides the opportunity for fun and connection with others we care about, but don’t get to see very often.”

Freed echoed these sentiments, describing Trivia Night as an event that people look forward to every year, adding, “Many people are grateful that we’re still holding the event this year because they want to support the American Cancer Society and are looking for something to do on a Saturday night during a pandemic.”

Of course, the primary motivation for the organizers’ insistence on pushing forward with Trivia Night this year is that cancer hasn’t stopped, despite the presence of the pandemic. And because COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of many events, it has had a devastating impact on fundraising. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has estimated its 2020 losses at about $200 million, and this fall, the Society was unable to accept new applications for research grants. According to the ACS website, the organization’s funding for cancer research could be cut in half. Given the significant role that ACS plays in funding cancer research, its reduction in revenue could have a dramatic impact on the future of cancer breakthroughs.

Blum, DeMichele and Freed are working hard to make their virtual event as close to their live trivia night as possible. The event is open to everyone, and given its virtual format, there’s no limit to the number of people who can participate. Players are encouraged to form teams of friends and family members, who will connect from wherever they are via virtual platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and others. As in the live event, there will be raffle baskets, a 50/50 and the opportunity to dedicate luminaria bags in honor or memory of loved ones affected by cancer. The cost is $25 per person prior to January 15 and $30 thereafter, with a variety of Trivia Night packages available at https://TriviaNightACS.ticketspice.com/2021. For questions or more information, contact Lori Freed at lorifreed@comcast.net.

Trivia Night’s popularity and fundraising success has grown over the years, attracting trivia buffs, as well as those just looking to have fun while supporting a good cause. This year’s virtual format promises more of the same and is a testament to the resilience of three women, who aren’t going to let a pandemic undermine their dedication to the fight against cancer.

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