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Giving your all for Relay

Raising money in this down economy isn’t easy. Point blank, it’s downright difficult.

But despite financial blockades, team and committee members not only raised $64,098.79, but also raised the spirits of cancer survivors and their caregivers.

After raising nearly $74,000 in 2008, the goal this year was $75,000, an amount that even with some more dollars trickling in, may not be reached in the allotted two months after Relay. That, Relay chair Willene Dickey said, is not the main issue.

All the local hard work is important.

“I’m real proud of the community,” said Dickey, who’s still receiving Relay money. “We almost met our goal in this economy. It is not about reaching your goal. It is about doing the best you can and giving all that you’ve got.

“We are blessed,” Dickey said.

A Relay wrap-up gathering is scheduled for May 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the CailCenter.  

During the 12 hours of Relay Friday night and early Saturday morning, 24 teams all outfitted with their best 1960s-themed campsites continued to raise money to end the threat of cancer forever. The theme of this year’s Relay was “PEACE+HOPE+LOVE=RELAY.”

In the months before the Relay event at Cail Field, teams and committee members held gospel sings, bake sales, yard sales, pageants, poker runs and conducted an array of opportunity drawings to generate more funds for the American Cancer Society. Tickets were bought for a Relay For Life-themed quilt and a chance to have handyman Roydine Robinson perform four hours of yard work for one lucky person.

Residents also gave to Relay in the form of luminaries to honor and memorialize cancer victims. Committee member Bill Lanford, who again handled this year’s luminaries with his wife Peggy, said by the time the bags with candles were set on the field for the 9 a.m. ceremony, an estimated 750 created a lit walkway for Relay participants.

“I am standing in front of brave men and women. You have just won a battle and I salute you,” said Jimmy Ondriezek last month at the Survivors Dinner.

Ondriezek, whose wife Helen of 54 years died from cancer, called those who gathered at the Cail Center that evening heroes.

Some of the luminaries were bought in honor of the survivors who walked the first lap. Leading the group was 4-year-old Sierra Beaupre, who has been in remission for leukemia.

A tired Beaupre was carried by her mother Stephanie on the first lap, but later in the evening Beaupre walking around without the aid of her walker.

“Seeing Sierra walking without a walker shows God’s glory too,” Dickey said.

Two years ago at the time of Relay Beaupre had just completed her treatment after starting at the age of 5 months.

The telephone number of the American Cancer Society is 1-800-ACS-2345 or a person may check the Internet at www.cancer.org.

“I’ve never been in a community were so many people get together for a cause,” said Carter Crawford, Sylvania city manager. “Cancer touches everybody.”

“I want to give a special ‘thank you’ to Willene and the committee members,” said Stan Sheppard, Screven County Commission chairman. “Relay For Life is a wonderful example of how one person can make a difference.”

Sheppard then reminded the crowd of how Relay For Life, an American Cancer Society signature event conducted in communities across the nation, began 25 years ago.

In Tacoma, Wash., Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, wanted to boost the income of his local American Cancer Society office so he decided to personally raise money for the fight by running marathons.

In May 1985, Klatt spent 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for more than 83 miles. Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him. He raised $27,000 to fight cancer.

That first year, nearly 300 watched as Klatt ran and walked the course. While he circled the track those 24 hours, Klatt thought about how others could take part. He envisioned a 24-hour team relay event that could raise more money to fight cancer. Months later he pulled together a small committee to plan the first team relay event known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.

In 1986, 19 teams took part in the first team relay event on the track and raised $33,000.

“We can and must find a cure in this battle with cancer,” Sheppard said.

A new category in team competition this year was karaoke as individuals from each of the teams had to perform their 1960s in front of the Relay crowd that grew by the hundreds after games at the county recreation department complex and the SCHS region-winning baseball game concluded.

The Friends And Family won this year’s karaoke honor.

The best campsite at Relay was won by Keep Screven Beautiful. ScrevenCountyHospital was second and Timken was third.

ScrevenCountyHospital and Walls Diner tied for the best slogan, while second place went to the City of Sylvania.

The ScrevenCountyHospital team won the scavenger hunt with 525 points, while the Friends And Family team earned honorable mention on the hunt with its 345 points.

The awards for “Most Team Spirit” and “Most Money Raised” will be announced at the May 18 wrap-up ceremony.

Some of those who performed entertainment during Relay were Katelyn Whittington, Amanda Lee, Victoria Bohannon, Unforgiven, Kevin Roundtree, Brian Bohannon, Pam Mills, and Bent Not Broke.