06/26/09 — They did it: Relay for Life raises more than $634,000

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They did it: Relay for Life raises more than $634,000

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on June 26, 2009 1:46 PM

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The annual Wayne County Relay for Life raised $634,201.38 this year, organizers announced at an awards banquet Thursday night -- the most of any county in the state. The amount fell short of last year's total, but officials said they were pleased that the event did so well despite a slow economy. A Postal Service box to allow people to continue to send donations has been established. Donations can be mailed to: Wayne County Relay for Life, P.O. Box 11215, Goldsboro, N.C., 27532.

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Dr. Lee Adams, left, of the Shepherd Shockers Relay for Life Team, Cathy Turnage of the Wal-Mart Store No. 1236 team and Stephanie McCloud of the N.C. Angels team display the awards they accepted on behalf of their teams, who were among the top money-raising teams at the event.

Despite a weak economy, Wayne County residents still raised $634,201.38 at the annual Relay for Life, officials announced Thursday.

About 125 people attended the awards ceremony at Wayne Memorial Hospital that was alternately somber and joyful.

Although the total was significantly less than the one from a year ago, organizers exuded a quiet pride in the accomplishment, which again pushed Wayne to the top of the state's counties in terms of money raised to fight cancer.

Wendy Perdue, the Southeastern North Carolina area manager for the American Cancer Society, said Wayne's special devotion to the cause is a model for other counties.

She noted the large crowd who attended the May 29-30 event at Wayne Community College -- and the thunderstorm that interrupted the festivities. She said the storm might have scattered the crowed, "but then they came back -- and multiplied."

"Thank you for all you do," she told the gathering, "you certainly are making a difference."

Later, she said Wayne seems to have taken the Relay and its goal of fighting cancer more seriously than most any other county she deals with.

"The turnout at this event has been better than I've seen anywhere," she said. "It's crazy."

Awards were given out in a number of categories, including most money raised, best campsite, and a number of special awards to people or groups especially involved in putting the event together and making it a success.

Wayne Memorial Hospital's team raised the most money of any team at the event -- $39,927.75. Wal-Mart Store No. 1236 was second with $25,333.20, Handy Mart/E.J. Pope was third with $23,264.50 and Southeastern Medical Oncology Center was fourth with $22,421.50.

Grantham School retained its top spot among school contributors with $16,096.38. Pine Forest United Methodist Church was the top church fundraiser with $21,854.62, Rosewood Elementary School took the rookie team award with $5,814.55 and the 333rd Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the Lancers, led the military category with $4,278 raised.

The M&M Cancer Survivors team, made up exclusively of people who have battled the disease, was honored for raising $19,191.05.

Campsite awards went to Wayne Memorial Hospital, Eastern Wayne High School, Garris Chapel United Methodist Church, the M&M Cancer Survivors and T.A. Loving Co.

Saulston United Methodist Church won the team Spirit Award and Susan Sutton was honored with the individual Spirit Award for her work in erecting purple ribbons all around the county, especially in downtown Goldsboro.

Special awards went to Jim King and Carol Mitchell. David Trivette was recognized with the Above and Beyond Award and Donald Mercer received the Impact Award.

Honorary chairpersons Stephanie Craig and Jeni Kominsky also were recognized in the adult and youth categories, respectively.

Organizers also took special note of the generous contributions of two restaurants -- Wilber's Barbecue and Outback Steakhouse -- who donated food for the kickoff event and the awards ceremony. Wayne Community College was thanked for allowing the event to be held on its campus, Wayne Memorial Hospital for providing a location for planning meetings and Southeastern Medical Oncology and Wayne Radiation Oncology for helping sponsor the Survivors' Banquet.

Brenda Robinson was recognized as "the one who keeps everything going for us," by relay co-chairman Debbie Pennell.

Although most of the evening was spent in celebration, there were moments of seriousness.

King, who lost his son, Mark, to cancer recently, gave a short, but emotional testimonial and thanked all those present for their support.

Hilda Hill, who stood beside her granddaughter, Tonya Matthews, while she delivered an emotional speech describing her battle with cancer at the Survivors Banquet the day before the relay, said her granddaughter has suffered complications from the disease since the event.

But there also was good news. Organizers said Cooper Bryan, the honorary kids chairman for last year's event, has learned that his tumor has stabilized and that he is doing well.

The event closed with Ms. Pennell reminding those present that work on next year's event is already under way, with the first organizational meeting set for Sept. 10.

And Wayne volunteers were encouraged to take part in womanless beauty pageant to be held Aug. 1 at the Duplin Events Center in Kenansville to raise money for area Relay for Life events.

For more information, call Debbie Pennell at 736-3030.