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05/23/10 — Relay organizers: Money at $520K and counting

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Relay organizers: Money at $520K and counting

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on May 23, 2010 1:50 AM

By the end, there were only a few people left.

Where a few hours earlier, thousands had walked, laughed, sang, danced and, sometimes, cried, the handful of Relay-goers still at Wayne Community College gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed.

The annual Wayne County Relay for Life ended late Saturday morning. Organizers said it was one of the largest in memory.

The crowd was estimated to have been about 15,000 strong Friday, and even with many teams' contributions yet to be added in, the total amount of money raised was announced as $502,000.

That figure is sure to grow, said Debbie Pennell, one of the co-chairpersons.

Organizers set a goal of $650,000. With more donations to be counted, there remains a good chance they will hit it. Last year's event brought in $634,00 for cancer research.

"You'all did an awesome job," co-chairperson Brenda Thornton told the group, "and we love every one of you."

"Everything just fell into place," Mrs. Pennell said, noting the weather that remained dry and not too hot. The other co-chairs of the Relay were Terry Butler, Dr. Lee Adams, Ethel Barnes and Jeff Whitener.

More than 5,000 luminarias lit up the night Friday, honoring those who had fought the good fight and those who continue to battle cancer.

Just prior to the closing ceremony, the winners of the various awards were announced.

Taking home the best campsite awards were New Hope Methodist in the church division, Meadow Lane Elementary in the school division and Big Daddy's Place in the miscellaneous division. Garris Chapel United Methodist Church took home the overall prize.

The Team Flag prize went to Daniels Memorial Church; Best in Show went to Case Farms; and the Purtty Team from Grantham took home three awards: the Race for a Cure trophy, the Jack o' Melon carving contest trophy and the Team Participation Award.

The Purtty team was created to honor the memory of the late Carl Thornton. The name came from a nickname Thornton and his friends had used on one another for years. Team captain is Thornton's mother, Frances Thornton.

Bryan Mooring, Thornton's brother-in-law, said the team had been a part of the Purple Stars but broke off to form their own team in their friend's memory. Relay is a year-round event for them, he added. Most of the team members attend Manley Grove Pentecostal Holiness Church.

Relay is fun and gives the family and friends a way to keep Carl in their hearts, Mooring said.

"We do everything for him," he said, referring to his brother-in-law.

The adults were not the only ones having fun Saturday.

The annual Kids' Walk started off the day, allowing youngsters the chance to have a Relay of their own.

After warming up to some energetic music, about 60 children stepped onto the track at 8:30 a.m. for the Relay for Life kids' walk.

Regina Henderson's daughter Alexis, 11, and sons Nathaniel, 9, Timothy, 6 and Caleb, 4, have been coming to Relay for most of their lives. Their grandmother, who lives in Georgia, is a colon cancer survivor. The kids enjoy helping raise awareness and collecting money for cancer research each year, Mrs. Henderson said.

"We wanted to support her," she said.

The family was excited to get out on the track for their early-morning laps, and for the fun activities, Alexis said.

Staff writer Catharin Shepard contributed to this report.