The 12th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Erath County was nothing short of being a success as participants stuck to this year’s theme: Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.
Fifty-two teams from Stephenville, Dublin and every corner of Erath County, representing area businesses, organizations and families, converged onto the big hill near the Birdsong Amphitheater in Stephenville City Park and began a 12-hour relay to help find a cure for cancer and support patient services through the American Cancer Society.
“This year’s event went really well,” said Melanie Zinck, chairwoman of the local Relay. “We were very pleased and proud to see all the people that came out to support our cancer survivors and our county’s event to help fight cancer.”
As of Saturday, more than $97,000 had been collected and Zinck expects more to come in during the next few weeks. This year’s goal was set at $110,000, slightly less than last year, said Zinck, but by Friday the committee reported proceeds had exceeded last year’s total of $93,000.
The local Relay for Life has experienced success because of the cost of the event has been very low, thanks to the generosity of area businesses and organizations. Zinck said this year’s event garnered the support of 39 sponsors, up from 22 in past years.
Nearly 96 percent of the money raised will go directly towards cancer research and a fund to help defray the costs of travel to treatment centers and overnight stays for individuals who are battling cancer.
The event seems to be gaining in popularity Zinck says, as organizers try to come up with new ways to cater to the entire family by including games and fun things for the youth to do.
Kicking off at 6 p.m. Friday evening, a total of 52 teams as well as a large crowd of onlookers and other participants converged on the park and began setting up tents and other camps to make it through the night.
The first lap of the Relay, taken by the 179 cancer survivors who participated this year, had attendees cheering on those who beat the disease as they rounded the track.
Once the survivors made their way back to the starting line, the caretakers had their chance to be in the spotlight - a large group of more than 75 who have stood by their partner or friend as they struggled to defeat cancer.
A sense of celebration filled the air as teams, many of which included someone who beat the disease, congratulated survivors. The fun-filled evening also included games for youth and mini fundraisers at the park to help teams reach their goals.
The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraising season goes until August, said Zinck, adding that monies will continue to come in throughout their fiscal year.
The 12-hour celebration is the culmination of more than a half-year’s worth of organizing, promotion and fundraising, said Zinck.
“We really kicked off for this year’s Relay in September. We have had a committee meeting once a month since then,” said Zinck. “Committee members oversee everything from entertainment to survivors, teams and luminarias.”
The 22-member organizing committee and countless other volunteers plan the entire event, said Zinck. “If it wasn’t for our awesome committee we wouldn’t have enjoyed the success we did this year.”
Prior to the first lap by survivors, Kim Reed announced this year’s cancer survivor honorees, including Christie Beyer and Jocelyn Lewis. Both took center stage and told the crowd about their struggles to defeat the disease, thanking their families and supporters for being there the entire time.
Both honorees, with family and close friends by their sides, told heartwrenching stories that left few with dry eyes.
Throughout the night, participants enjoyed games and planned activities, including karaoke and midnight madness, which was sponsored by Harris Methodist Erath County Hospital.
“We had so many compliments this year for the organization of the entire event and for the events that were going on throughout the night,” said Zinck. “Before we knew it, it was 4 am. because we were just rolling along having fun.”
As the event wrapped up at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, many of the tired team members enjoyed a breakfast prepared by Harris Methodist employees. The hospital team used the meal as a fundraiser with all proceeds going back to the ACS.
On June 19, the local Relay for Life committee will host an awards banquet and wrap-up event when they will announce the teams which brought in the most money, individual awards and others, said Zinck. The wrap-up celebration will be held at TexasBank in Stephenville at 6 p.m.
Funds raised through ACS Relays across the country help support local cancer patients and the fight to find a cure, said Zinck. “The bulk of funds go towards cancer research and some monies are put aside in support of cancer patients, survivors and those battling cancer.”
The ACS provides such programs as Road to Recovery and transportation for patients to and from appointments for treatments.
“They have a structure that helps us get our volunteers to take patients to doctors, and others where patients can be provided supplies they need,” explained Zinck. “Those who are undergoing chemotherapy and lose their hair, the ACS will provide wigs and makeup to make them more comfortable. They essentially connect patients with people who can help them, such as support groups and medical specialists.”
The ACS also provides educational material for those battling various forms of cancer and to survivors in remission.
Thanks to the many dedicated volunteers, business community and participants, this year’s Relay will continue to make strides and set the tone for future events.
Number of teams participating in this year’s Relay for Life of Erath County, up from 45 in 2007.
Number of cancer survivors who showed up to celebrate their defeat over the disease. One survivor traveled all the way from Colorado to Relay in Stephenville.
Amount raised as of Saturday. This year’s goal was set at $110,000 - a figure that could be reached as proceeds continue to pour in.
Number of memorial luminarias sold at this year’s Relay.
Number of hours the Relay lasts - from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday.
Number of sponsors who helped make this year’s event possible, including area individuals, businesses and civic organizations.