Goal, plus some: Relay teams set new fundraising record
By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 21, 2006 2:11 AM
After the 2006 Relay for Life's debut fireworks were over Friday, volunteers knew they had hit their goal of more than a half-million dollars for the battle to find a cure for cancer.
Little did they know that they had beaten their own record.
At Saturday's finale, co-chairman Dr. Lee Adams announced the total raised to-date -- $615,000. And the Wayne County committee isn't finished either. The volunteers expect to be accepting even more donations through the end of June.
Mayor Al King opened the annual fundraising event held at Wayne Community College.
Cancer authority Dr. James Atkins of Southeastern Medical Oncology Center reminded the volunteers of why their efforts matter.
"The volunteers in Wayne County have made the difference for people who live here," he said. "And I think we are going to see a cure in the future."
After that, cancer survivors officially began the evening, completing their traditional first lap.
The Relay was about more than just fundraising for Rex Evans.
He was there for his wife, Angie, who lost her life in January at age 44 after battling breast cancer.
He lit luminaries for her Friday -- assembled in the shape of a heart -- as two of the couple's four children stood by his side.
Evans said members of his church, Faith Free Will Baptist, friends from Faith Christian Academy, family and other friends helped purchase the luminaries, a tribute to a friend and church family member lost too soon.
Lighting them brought back memories of another Relay for Life, one with Angie by his side.
"She was living and lit her own luminarias last year," Evans said.
Elizabeth Evans understands the power of that memory.
The teenager stood a few feet away, huddled with her Southern Wayne High School classmates, Tabitha Gautier, Casey Lewis, Kristen Bova, Melissa Ewers, Chris King and Preston Grantham.
They all cried as they comforted each other and remembered.
Their heart-shaped set of luminaries were lit in honor of Elizabeth's father, Phillip.
The 50-year-old died of lung cancer in January.
"He was truly precious," his daughter said. "He was my hero."
Gary Price watched as friends and family lit 169 luminarias in memory of his wife, Joan, who died from colon cancer in March.
The show of love for his 68-year-old wife touched him.
"I knew it was going to be a pretty good display, but had no idea it would be this many," he said. "It shows how much she was thought of."
Iris Neal remembered Mrs. Price, too, as she knelt to light a luminary.
They were cousins, but more like sisters, Mrs. Neal said.
"We were very, very close," she said.
She said Mrs. Price attended every Relay -- and was an example of the bravery and courage honored there.
"She was very sick with her cancer, but she was a brave trooper. Her wonderful attitude was what kept her going as long as she did."
Thousands of families, friends and survivors spent Friday night and part of Saturday, meeting, greeting and sharing some of the wares offered at the campsites assembled around the Relay site.
On Friday, the winning campsites were chosen.
The Purple Star Survivors took home one of those plaques.
The team, which is made up of 55 cancer survivors, chose the theme, "Fighting the Battle, Winning the War."
Their pictures lined boards near the entrance to their site, with an additional five special stars to honor team members who lost their battles with cancer this year.
One of those stars was for a team member who died Friday morning.
Team coordinator Helen Harwood said the team offered survivors a chance to stay focused and positive.
"Some of our team members are very young and have just been diagnosed with cancer," she said. "When they got on our team, it put a spark in their life again and gave them hope when they were losing. It's a motivation for them because they feel more self-worth by being able to give back to their community."
The big winner for the evening was the Wayne Memorial Hospital team.
Their Disney-like castle featured special guests Jasmine from "Aladdin", Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" and a fairy -- all assembled in support of the theme, "Wishing for a Cancer-free Kingdom."
The campsite took home first prize in the healthcare category and won best overall as well.
Members of the Sunday school class of New Hope Friends Meeting took home the best campsite award in the church category.
The team's campsite featured a movie theme -- "New Hope Friends Theatre Presents 'A Passion for a Cure'" -- and was dedicated to the memory of Cathy Fields, a former class member who died of cancer.
On one side of the theater where posters of coming attractions would normally be, there were pictures of Ms. Fields. On the other side was information about cancer.
In the school category, Greenwood Middle School took home the top prize with the theme, "Piecing Together Cure."
Students and teachers sold puzzle pieces to make a memory quilt. Each piece included the name of someone special who is battling or who has battled the disease.
"We do it because we all have been touched by cancer in our families and with our friends and it means a lot to us," team member Amy Howell said. "It's also a big morale booster at school."
At the conclusion of the Relay, the seven teams raising the most money were recognized. They included Wayne Memorial Hospital, $71,874; Purple Star Survivors, $38,969.75; Shepherd's Shockers, $24,000; Cherry Hospital, $20,752.90; Wayne County, $20,530.44; New Hope Friends Meeting, $20,401; and Phil Evans family, $19,135.
But the money raised, although vital to the fight against cancer, was not the best part of the weekend's events, Dr. Adams said.
"The spirit of the event is more important than the money," he said.
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