05/04/06 — Relay teams are breaking records, closing in on goals

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Relay teams are breaking records, closing in on goals

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 4, 2006 1:50 PM

The 17th annual Relay for Life is still three weeks away, yet team members have already raised 62 percent of this year's goal of $550,000. So far, they have collected a total of $346,000 to provide local services and to help find a cure for cancer.

Last year's goal was $525,000 and the event raised $568,000, said Mark Renfroe, one of the 2006 Relay co-chairmen. "We are currently ahead of where we were this time last year," he said.

Sponsored by the Wayne County Unit of the American Cancer Society, the event will be May 19-20 at Wayne Community College.

The opening ceremony begins at 4 p.m. May 19 with the traditional cancer survivors' lap at 6 p.m. A luminary ceremony will take place at 9 p.m., followed by a fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. The Relay ends May 20 at 10:30 a.m.

Renfroe said the fireworks display has been added to celebrate survivors. "We don't want to offset what the luminary ceremony is about," he said. "The luminary ceremony is to recognize and remember, and the fireworks display is to celebrate survivors and their fight against cancer."

There will 105 teams participating in the Relay this year.

Renfroe said the purpose of the event is to raise awareness about what's available to cancer patients and their families and to raise money for cancer research.

"It's about empowering a community about cancer awareness," he said.

There are several new additions to this year's Relay for Life, Renfroe said.

One of these is the online registration, set up and run by volunteer John Smith. "It's been a big hit, but a big learning process," Renfroe said. "We can put in teams, team members, corporate sponsors, the total raised by each team and the Relay total.

Also new this year, the Relay will close to the public at midnight May 19. Renfroe said only those with a team or those helping at the event will be allowed to be there between midnight May 19 and 6 a.m. May 20.

"In the past, we've had a lot of issues with things going on that shouldn't be going on when teens were unsupervised," Renfroe said.

To ensure only those connected with the Relay are in the field after midnight, purple arm bands will be issued. Team captains will be responsible for getting the arm bands to their team members.

To get the children more involved in the Relay this year, there will be a Kids Walk May 20 from 9 to 10 a.m. for children through fifth grade. It will involve all the county schools, public and private.

Only children will walk the track during that hour. There will be other activities for them including clowns, balloons, face painting and inflatables as well as snacks.

Renfroe said the schools are competing in a contest to design a Relay T-shirt for prizes. Each school will do its own fundraising.

The Cancer Society has distributed a Relay for Life kit to each school so students can have their own mini-Relays. Included in the kit is information about health concerns such as smoking, eating properly, diet and exercise.

"It's a way to involve children in the fundraising and cancer research," Renfroe said.

Throughout the Relay, there will be live entertainment on stage.

Staff from the Family Y will operate a free supervised children's play area -- Kids Kingdom -- for walkers who need somewhere to leave their children while they are on the track. It will be located right next to the track.

New to the campsite area will be three Relay Midways, just like at the county fair, Renfroe said. Along the midways, teams will sell all kinds of food from main dishes to desserts to snack, novelty items and more. There will also be games at some of the campsites.

Awards for most money raised and campsite awards in six categories -- business, military, church, school, other and health care -- will be presented as well as an overall campsite award. A special award will go to the most-spirited team.

"It's not just one somber event," Renfroe said. "It's like a fair atmosphere. They're there to raise money and celebrate what they've accomplished."

Renfroe, manager of clinical engineering at Wayne Memorial Hospital, has been on the hospital's Relay team five years and has been team captain three years.

"My father had rectal cancer so he's my inspiration and one of the reasons I do it," he said. "He's a survivor, and we want more of them. It's a great group of people. It's amazing to see what they'll do for a cause."