05/19/08 — Relay for Life donations - $650,000 ... and still counting

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Relay for Life donations - $650,000 ... and still counting

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 19, 2008 1:51 PM

Heavy rains might have dampened the 7,603 luminarias that graced a Wayne Community College parking lot Friday evening, but Relay for Life co-chair Debbie Pennell said they could not dampen the spirits of the thousands who showed up to stare down cancer.

And by the end of the event, teams and residents had raised more than $650,000 to help fund research and treatment of the disease -- and maybe, a cure.

Ms. Pennell said there is no way of knowing exactly how many showed up at Relay, but in the 18 years she has attended, this was "probably the biggest."

This year's Relay for Life was full of contests to stimulate the imagination and raise money for cancer research and local patient services. There was everything from a local Idol competition to a jack-o-lantern carving to a car race.

And here are the winners.


*Church -- Zion Marchers

*School -- Greenwood Middle School

*Healthcare -- Cherry Hospital

*Business -- APV

*Overall winner -- Garris Chapel Church

In the jack-o-lantern contest, winners were:

*Marga-Relay-Ville, first

*Zion Marchers, second

*Anchor Coupling, third

Winners of the flag lap were:

*The Purtty Team, first

*Garris Chapel Church Holy Cows, second

*Westward for a Cure, third

*First Free Will Baptist Church, fourth

Winners of the Racing for a Cure lap were:

*Chris Conner and Kenny Halls, first heat

*Dylan Jones and Michelle Montgomery, second heat

In other contests:

W.L. Britt of the Purtty Team took first place in the rooster crowing contest Saturday morning.

The winner of the bedhead competition was Dr. Lee Adams.

The Simon Says contest at 2 a.m. Saturday had so many good players that it turned into an acrobatic dance-off instead. Eddie Radford won hands-down with his many flips. Jennifer Mooring came in second.

In her long pink T-Shirt, sunglasses, pink jacket and pretty pink wagon, Emma Massengill won the Relay Baby contest.

And 15-year-old Hailey Kornegay took first place in the Relay Idol competition with her rendition of "I Believe."

During the Kids Walk, the award for the school with the most participation went to Spring Creek Elementary with more than 80 taking part in the event.

"It was great," she said. "We had as many people as we did last year. If not more."

Each of those in attendance had a story -- a reason they weathered the storm, a reason they slept in tents across campus, a reason they walked lap after lap.

Ms. Pennell was one of them.

She started coming to Relay nearly two decades ago.

Right after her best, friend, Linda Kennedy, lost her battle.

"When she died, I was very angry, very frustrated. I needed an outlet," Ms. Pennell said. "When I think about it, everything I do, in the back of my mind, it's for her. I know this is what she would want me to do -- to turn that anger into something positive."

But at her first Relay, there were not more than 7,000 luminarias on hand to honor those fighting, and those who lost their fight with, cancer.

There were barely 100.

"When we first started with the luminarias, we had about 50," Ms. Pennell said. "And maybe 200 people -- and that's a stretch."

So seeing the event grow, witnessing an increase in donations somewhere in the hundreds of thousands, has been special.

But particularly this year, when most are paying nearly $4 for a gallon of gasoline and seeing increases in everything from flour to clothing.

"It's hard, but people, they are doing it from the heart," Ms. Pennell said. "They are doing everything they can to help the fight."

So far, $650,000 has been raised -- $50,000 shy of this year's goal.

But Ms. Pennell is not worried.

"I think we will hit our goal," she said. "We still have money coming in."

The final total will be available after May 29, the deadline for teams to turn in outstanding donations.

And if the donors are anything like those luminarias that graced that WCC pavement this weekend, they won't quit.

"There were still some candles burning that next morning," Ms. Pennell said. "It was just a great Relay."