05/12/13 — Fun -- all for a good cause

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Fun -- all for a good cause

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on May 12, 2013 1:50 AM

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Carla Massengill fills a "walking taco" with sour cream for Kim Goff at the Brogden United Methodist Church team's booth. The church group also sold homemade apple jacks.

For the 90 teams at the 2013 Relay for Life, the evening was not just about fellowship and fun.

It was about money -- raising as much as they could to do their part in the fight against cancer -- and that meant hawking as many sandwiches, drinks, shaved ices or brownies as they could before the end of the night.

Most had reasons they were Relaying -- and some were even cancer survivors or warriors themselves.

But in the end, the long hours, the days of preparation were all for one thing -- to raise the dollar that would help find the cure.

For some it was all about the food -- from turkey legs at The Rainbow Crusaders' tent, to the barbecue beef sandwiches at the Seven Springs Baptist Church site. At the Meredith Stancil Memorial booth, it was all about the pork chops, while the First TEAM offered up ribeye sandwiches.

For others, it was about the theme -- like the Purrty Team (in honor of Carl Thornton), which created a winter wonderland -- complete with a visit from Santa Claus.

But not everyone toiled in a booth Friday.

For three Relay fundraisers, it was about how good they looked in a dress.

The contestants for the "Miss"ter Relay Competition strutted their stuff around the fairgrounds for 30 minutes -- raising more than $300.

More than a third of that total -- $125.32 -- was raised by Michael Ward, a supporter of the M&M Cancer Survivors team, who donned not only a lively floral dress, a pink floppy hat and full makeup for the event, but also some rather shapely undergarments.

His "Sasha Holiday" getup was the hit of the pageant, and won him not only the award for the most money raised, but also the title of prettiest mister -- an award bestowed by a panel of three freshmen girls from Rosewood and Charles B. Aycock high schools.

Ward said he was proud to claim the honors, but added that there was one part of the costume he just couldn't manage.

"I did it without high heels on," he said.

Now that his pageant days are over, he looks forward to growing back his beard.

Neal "Tina" Swanson came in second with $71.27, followed closely by Steven "Stephana" Whitenton, with $70.

Swanson competed in his wife's thigh-length wedding dress.

"(On my wedding day) I never dreamed I'd ever be wearing her dress," he said.

Whitenton was in the competition for the Logan's Roadhouse relay team.

"I got volun-told that I was going to do this," he said.

His strategist, Leah Pate, decked him out in a black cocktail dress.

But even though all three enjoyed the fun of the competition, Ward said he wanted to make sure his costume had a message, too.

He included a board denoting the ribbons representing the various types of cancer.

"Before I got into doing this I had no idea there were so many ribbons and so many types, so I want to show other people," he said.

Honorary Youth/Young Adult Co-Chairman and cancer survivor, Jake May, a 2012 Eastern Wayne graduate and a baseball standout, was on hand at this year's event, too -- marking his April 2012 victory over cancer, and helping to raise money with his team of past and present players from Charles B. Aycock and Eastern Wayne high schools' baseball teams.

The Wayne Community College student was diagnosed with leukemia in his junior year of high school.

May and a few of his friends set up a dunking booth -- taking more than a few plunges in their efforts to raise money to battle cancer.

Tanya Blount, team captain of the M&M Cancer Survivors, a team made up completely of cancer survivors, won her battle with ovarian cancer 21 years ago.

"They gave me six months to live," she said. "(My surviving) wasn't anything but God and strong will."

She is the single mother of three children.

"My kids told me, 'Mom, you can't give up' and I didn't," Ms. Blount said.

She Relays so that one day no one will have to hear a death sentence when they are diagnosed with cancer.

"We fought the battle and we won because we are still here in our 13th year (with a team)," she said.

Many people were there Friday to honor loved ones -- and when the final numbers are tallied, the turnout for the event is expected to be high.

Relay co-chairman Brenda Robinson said the evening was a success and that the cool, but clear, evening kept many people on the grounds longer.

"Hopefully, they spent some money," she said.

After the days of preparation and hard work, she was noticeably tired, yet proud, of the hard work of the many volunteers and teams who brought this year's goal of $450,000 for cancer research that much closer to reality.

"It has been a great evening -- really special," she said.