04/29/05 — Cancer survivor team ready for Relay for Life

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Cancer survivor team ready for Relay for Life

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on April 29, 2005 1:49 PM

The annual Relay for Life has a special meaning for members of the Purple Stars Survivor team. All its members are cancer survivors.

The members of the team range in age from 40 to over 80. Some are still receiving cancer treatments. Others have been cancer-free for decades.

Last year, the team raised more than $34,000 for cancer research. This year, they have already raised $25,000 in anticipation of the Relay for Life, which will be held May 13-14 at Wayne Community College.

Helen Harwood, who helped come up with the idea for an all-survivor team, said the team serves not only as a mechanism to raise money for the cause but as a support group for its members and others suffering from the disease. When the team assembles, its members represent more than 300 years of living with cancer, she said.

"It's all different types of cancer, all different ages, all different cultures, all different religions, but we come together for a common cause and we have a good time," Mrs. Harwood said.

Within a couple of months of last year's relay, the team was already busy planning for this year's event. To raise money, they held gospel music concerts and sold Cancer Society bracelets and necklaces and other items such as handbags, watches, car magnets and pins.

They also came up with a novel idea to raise money -- a womanless "beauty" pageant in which male members of the team sang, tap-danced, held a cheerleading competition and were judged in talent and evening gown competition.

During the relay, team members plan to give away ice cream in return for donations and continue to sell other items to raise money. Their campsite can be identified by its "Christmas" tree, which is decorated with purple stars.

Team captain Ann Shaw suffered from cancer and underwent a mastectomy in the early 1990s. She said team members look forward to the annual relay. The event is a celebration, she said, not a memorial.

"Unless you are a cancer survivor, you don't really realize what you're working for. I guess we do it year after year because we're addicted to it."

"It works us to death," Mrs. Harwood said, "but at the end of the Relay, we're always glad we did it."