Step 4: Choose a Theme
Sure, you can skip this step. But planning your event around a central theme is the best way to add interest and create excitement about your celebration. An event theme also helps tie everything together.
Your event’s theme can be anything you want it to be. Here’s a little “themespiration” to get you started:The Fabric of Hope
Swinging Toward the Cure
Host a swing dance, complete with a local swing band and swing dancers. Provide some basic swing dance lessons, and then crank up the music so everyone can show off their new moves.
Casino Royale: Tournament of Survivors
Host a casino-themed event where guests can take their turn at the roulette wheel or play slots, poker, or blackjack. Give out tokens for play that can later be redeemed for prizes. (Check out our Merchandise Catalog for prize ideas.)
Light of Hope
Hold a candle-lighting ceremony or candle procession to honor cancer survivors. This is a great theme for events held at churches or synagogues.
A Day of Pampering
Let your guests sit back and relax at a spa-themed event. You can hold your event at a local spa, or create a spa atmosphere at your cancer center. Play soothing music, turn down the lighting, and let guests enjoy spa treatment demos. Offer makeovers and skin care and makeup tips. You can even have someone on hand to talk about massage therapy or the importance of relaxation for cancer survivors. (See our Speakers Bureau Roster for help finding a topical keynote speaker.)
Hope in Motion
Hold a fundraising run/walk or bike race with a registration fee benefiting local cancer support agencies.
Surviving into the Future
Set the stage with space age décor and futuristic music. Maybe even encourage participants to come dressed up as their future selves. Guest speakers can talk about treatment advances and offer a glimpse into the future of cancer survivorship.
A Red Carpet Celebration
With this event theme, the survivors are the stars. Hold an awards banquet complete with a red carpet entrance, valet parking, and paparazzi on hand to take photos. You can even encourage participants to dress up as their favorite celebrity. Give out awards to survivors, caregivers, and even medical staff. Some ideas include youngest survivor, best celebrity costume, most years of cancer survivorship, and hardest working nurse.
I Will Survive
Everyone can channel their inner Gloria Gaynor at this disco-themed event. Break out the disco ball, the bell-bottoms, and your best John Travolta moves.
Joie de Vivre
Celebrate the “joy of living” with a Parisian-themed event. Set the mood with French-inspired decorations, music, and food. Have your volunteers wear berets and refer to guests as madame or monsieur. Enlist a mime artist to provide entertainment.
Let’s Get Physical
Make physical fitness the theme of your event. Wear workout gear, gather everyone for a zumba class, and offer tips on exercise and healthy living during and after cancer treatment.
Joining Hands in the Fight Against Cancer
Create a mural of handprints labeled with names and years of survivorship, which can later be displayed in your hospital or treatment center.
Survivors Got Talent
Host a talent show where survivors, caregivers, and medical staff can register to perform. Video the event to give to attendees as a memento. Have “celebrity” judges offer positive critiques after each performance.
Hope Grows Here
Host a garden or floral-themed event. An ideal location would be your local botanical gardens or a garden on hospital grounds. Have survivors paint flowerpots, create floral arrangements, or construct a “tree of life” collage with survivors’ names and messages of hope on individual leaves. You can also plant trees or dedicate a garden to honor survivors. Give out flower seed packets as souvenirs.
Set sail on a grand adventure with this pirate-themed event. Have guests don their best swashbuckling garb and hand out treasure maps leading guests to food tables, information booths, or craft tables.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Get guests giggling with clowns, a humorous speaker, laughter yoga, or anything else you can think of that will tickle their funny bones.
The Art of Healing
Hold your event at an art museum and display art created by survivors, host an art therapy workshop, or set up art stations for survivors to create their own works of art.
Strike Out Cancer
Hold your event at a baseball field or attend a local ballgame where survivors are recognized. Request to honor survivors by walking the bases. Have kids in Little League uniforms serving popcorn, peanuts, and cotton candy. You could even invite a professional baseball player or team mascot to participate and take pictures with survivors. This theme can be easily modified to fit with various other sports.
Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social
All you need for this theme is ice cream. You can host a homemade ice cream contest, set up a create-your-own sundae bar, or cater in treats from a local scoop shop. A barbershop quartet would provide the cherry on top.
Music is the center of this event, and it doesn’t even have to be rock and roll. Include performances by local musicians, set up a karaoke stage, or host a workshop on music therapy. The options are endless.
Leis, palm trees, Hawaiian dancers, and tropical food create the backdrop for this fun celebration.
Cancer Survivors Fiesta
Celebrate with Latin American flair: mariachis, flamenco dancers, conga lines, sombreros, maracas, piñatas, and festive food.
Hold your event at a local zoo or decorate your event space with a safari theme. Entertainment options include African dances and a drum circle performance.
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler
“Let the good times roll” with a Mardi Gras-themed event, complete with beads, masks, costumes, Cajun food, and the music of New Orleans.
Survivors Day Hoedown
Celebrate country-western style with an old-fashioned hoedown. Grab your boots, your cowboy hat, your partner, and do-se-do.
Blast from the Past
Hold a 50s, 60s, or 70s themed event. Ideas include a sock hop, hula-hoop contests, poodle skirts, bell-bottoms, and music from the era.
The Greatest Life on Earth
Turn your event into a circus (or a carnival) with clowns, stilt walkers, jugglers, magicians, face painting, carnival games, cotton candy, and more. You might also include pie eating contests, pony rides, fortune-tellers, and a dunking booth where attendees can dunk treatment center staff.
Have survivors participate in a butterfly or dove release, kite flying, hot air balloon rides, or just about anything that “soars.”
It’s a Party
Center your event around a birthday party theme. Celebrate with party hats, balloons, cupcakes, and traditional birthday party games like pin the tail on the donkey. Have survivors pin their years of survivorship with paper candles on a giant “birthday cake” display.
An NCSD event offers the perfect opportunity to educate your community on cancer prevention, treatment, and research, as well as the issues that confront cancer survivors. Consider providing information booths on early detection, treatment options, and support group and pain management resources. Offer free health screenings, makeovers, and massage therapy, art therapy, or pet therapy demonstrations. Distribute Welcome Brochures and Cancer Survivors Resource Guides, which can be ordered free of charge when you register your event online. Organize roundtable question-and-answer discussions facilitated by medical professionals or have an “ask the doctor” booth. Workshops addressing survivorship issues led by members of an oncology staff might address recurrence, chemotherapy side effects, nutrition, caregiving, communicating with your doctor, alternative therapies, or getting insurance coverage. Invite local cancer-related organizations to set up booths where participants can learn about their services.
Cancer Survivors Fashion Show
Cancer survivors make wonderful models for clothing, wigs, turbans, and scarves. Have local fashion designers, clothing stores, or cancer boutiques provide outfits and accessories for survivors to show off.