06/24/11 — Relay wrapup: $512,965

View Archive

Relay wrapup: $512,965

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on June 24, 2011 1:46 PM

Full Size


"Super" Cooper Bryan smiles after receiving the plaque for an All Star team during the Relay for Life Awards Dinner. Cooper, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brainstem glioma on Aug. 31, 2007, was the Relay for Life Kids Honorary Chairman in 2008.

The balloons signaling the start of Wayne County's Relay For Life 2011 had been released more than a month before, but the nervous excitement was still thick in the Wayne Memorial Hospital cafeteria Thursday night where team captains, chairpersons and other officials gathered to honor the relay's biggest contributors and, of course, determine if the event had reached its half-million-dollar goal for the American Cancer Society.

Team captains cycled past the podium to collect their awards for raising at least $150 per team member, with diamond teams raising more than $2,000 per member.

But the awards all led up to the event's culmination: When Debbie Pennell announced the Relay had exceeded its goal by more than $12,000.

Sue Hill, the captain of the Grantham School team, said the $512,965 total was truly what the entire Relay campaign was about.

"The awards -- that's not what it's all about," she said after the ceremony where her team, which raised $11,266.81, won for the highest total among schools. "It's the bottom line."

Still, the competition was a great incentive, she said, noting how proud she was of other schools that stepped it up this year.

"We've been No. 1 the last eight or nine years every year but once and I've been trying to get other schools to get more involved. I was really glad to see the schools kick it up," she said.

Brogden Middle School earned the team spirit award, led by Jane Sasser, who was named the most spirited individual in her first year working with the Relay.

But among fundraising totals, no team came close to Wayne Memorial Hospital, whose captain walked away with a handful of awards, including one for raising the most money of any team.

Captain Geneva Hernandez, a laboratory supervisor at the hospital, said her team's $30,000 goal looked unattainable at times, but credited her entire team with going above and beyond to raise money.

"It was such hard work," Ms. Hernandez said of her team raising $31,015 for the American Cancer Society. "Every dollar we raised we worked for."

A single mother of four in her first year as team captain, she noted the sacrifice team members made year-round to achieve their goal, bolstered by the knowledge that the money could make a difference in someone's life.

Ms. Hernandez said she doesn't see the patients, but handles their blood work in the lab and sees tests for new cancer patients every day.

"So many people know somebody who has had cancer," she said.

Wayne Memorial Hospital was followed by Pine Forest United Methodist Church, which raised $25,144.75, and Handy Mart/Pope which raised $20,000.25.

A referendum circulated at the event, soliciting opinions from attendees of this year's Relay on entertainment and how to make it better in the future along with an inquiry as to whether the Wayne County Fairgrounds would make a good venue for the event in the future. Organizers stressed that nothing was leading the Relay to leave Wayne Community College's campus, but that they wanted to know what the public thought of the option in case it arose.

Susan Sutton, who was honored with an "Above and Beyond" award during the ceremony along with Julie Potts, said afterward that so few people understand that, while much of the money raised goes toward cancer research, a portion of it stays home in the form of programs for those who have been diagnosed.

From support groups to one-on-one sessions, Ms. Sutton said there is much done to help locals who have been touched by the disease to get help. Through "Look Good...Feel Better," a workshop offered by the American Cancer Society to individuals undergoing chemotherapy, patients are shown how to utilize make-up, wigs, scarves and hats to feel better about the side effects of chemotherapy, which include hair loss.

A toll-free number also allows those touched by cancer to simply request help with any problems they might experience, from help with utility payments to wigs or just information about coping with the disease. Wayne and Johnston County American Cancer Society representative Ashley Couch said those requests are forwarded to her and she gets in touch with individuals to find out how best the organization can help.

The toll-free number is 1-800-ACS-2345 and information can also be found at cancer.org.