06/02/06 — New Relay total is $643,000 raised to fight cancer

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New Relay total is $643,000 raised to fight cancer

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on June 2, 2006 1:51 PM

Some participated for their neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members -- others were surviviors themselves. All of those who supported the 17th annual Relay For Life had a story.

And when the balloons were gone and the booths cleaned up, volunteers realized they had done more than just raise awareness about cancer. They had raised $643,575 to fund research and patient services -- almost $100,000 over their goal of $550,000.

Thursday, team members and volunteers gathered at Wayne Memorial Hospital to reflect on the event and honor those who helped turned this year's event into a record-breaker.

Honors were given at a banquet Thursday to teams and individuals who stood out at this year's Relay event. The four teams who raised the most money were composed of friends, cancer victims and survivors whose target is a cure to the deadly disease.

Wayne Memorial Hospital has had a Relay team for more than a decade. During this year's campaign, they raised more than $71,000 -- $33,000 more than any other group.

Team captain Melody Hartman said she and her teammates worked hard to help find a cure for cancer, a disease which has touched many members of their squad

"With us being so close to people that have cancer and their family members, it just seems like it's all that more important for us to try so hard to raise a lot of money," she said.

Kim Goff was a member of the Wayne Memorial team and stood at their campsite earlier this month as a friend and survivor. Her story began two years ago.

"When you hear that word, you're in shock," she said. "I paced around my kitchen and I couldn't believe it. Once I found out I was ready to get rid of it the next day."

The diagnosis -- breast cancer.

"When I told my daughter, the first thing she asked me was 'are you going to die,'" Mrs. Goff remembered. "I told her 'no.'"

And so she fought. Roughly two years later, she stood at the Wayne Memorial Hospital relayers' campsite, decked out in a Minnie Mouse costume -- wearing a sash that read 'survivor.'

The costume was part of the team's theme, "Wishing For A Cancer-Free Kingdom." Every year, Wayne Memorial does something for the children, Mrs. Goff said, to help them understand more about the disease.

"I think it helps them see that everyone who has cancer doesn't die," she said. "And that gives them hope."

Mrs. Goff added she has been on the team for years, even before she was diagnosed. But after she heard the doctor say 'cancer,' the event has a new meaning.

"It took on a more personal level now," she said.

A battle with cancer makes you think about everything in life in a different way, Mrs. Goff said.

"I have a lot more energy now," she said. "I live each day to its fullest. I try to look at the blossoms of flowers and not the roots."

Marcia Mitchell was also on the Wayne Memorial team. She, too, knows about life with cancer, having been diagnosed four years ago with thyroid cancer.

"When the doctor told me, when you hear those words, it could have knocked me off a stool," she said.

"I still get afraid," she added.

Now, almost four years after her diagnosis, Mrs. Mitchell said her bout with the disease has given her a new perspective.

"I don't let instances pass by now," she said. "I keep more in touch with people. It makes me thankful for every single day that I have. Now I know that if tomorrow doesn't come for me, I've lived life to the fullest."

Still, Mrs. Mitchell added that she wants to be here tomorrow. And being a part of Relay For Life takes a step towards a cure.

"I hope a cure comes in my lifetime," she said.

As she came to the end of the "survivors' walk" lap, seeing all the people who came out in support of fighting the disease was emotional, Mrs. Mitchell said.

"When you take the survivor walk out there, it makes you feel proud that there are so many people out there who don't even know you urging you on," she said. "I wanted to cry. It was all I could do to not break down in tears."

Many of the those who joined Mrs. Mitchell on the track were on the Purple Star Survivors squad. All of their members are cancer survivors.

Tanya Blount is co-captain.

"We raise money so that no one else has to suffer, and so that we won't have to suffer anymore," she said.

Others raised money too.

One of the top money raisers this year was the Shepherd's Shockers team. Dr. Lee Adams is team captain, and one of the Relay's three co-chairmen.

The team has participated since the event's inception 17 years ago.

"We've got a bunch of misfits on our team," Adams said. "Nobody works together or goes to the same church. It's the spirit behind the event is why we do it. It's just a good way to spend your time."

Adams said some of the team's members have family with cancer. One has even lost four sisters and a brother to cancer and has another sibling who is in remission. He said she gets friends and family to bake cakes for a bake sale and raises $1,000 just from that.

Spirit Awards were presented to Pine Forest United Methodist Church, Brenda Robinson, Carolyn Plummer and Dawn Potter. John Smith received a Special Award for doing the Relay online registration and maintaining the Web site for the Wayne County Unit of the American Cancer Society.

The Phil Evans Family Relay team received the Rookie Award for raising $19,015 its first year in the event.

Team Captain Keith Evans is the brother of the late Phil Evans, for whom the team is named. He died of throat cancer back in January.

"Last year, he had cancer and did an auction to raise money for Relay for Life for the E.J. Pope and Sons team," Evans said of his brother.

"A week before he passed away, the whole family was sitting with him and he talked about how proud he was, but how they still hadn't found a cure for cancer.

"My daughter told him that we hoped he was here to help our team this year, but if he wasn't, we'd do it for him. So we did a team in his honor."