Raising Awareness, Spirits

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

PROCTORVILLE — The teams had clever names such as “The Colorful Cuties,” “Rockin’ Redmen,” “’80s Ladies,” and “City Gold Slickers,” and many of their tents were elaborately decorated to reflect their respective themes.

There was music, dancing, hugging, laughing and lots of good eats. But, all of the teams at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life came together for a serious cause: raising money for cancer research.

The Relay began Friday night and ran until about noon Saturday. Thirty-four teams representing a variety of groups from around the county walked around the Fairland High School track throughout the night to raise money for cancer research and programs to help survivors and those still living with cancer.

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The event raised about $120,000, which surpassed the goal of $109,000 set by event organizers.

Last year, about $96,000 was brought in by 30 teams, the goal was $65,000. The Greasy Ridge Church of Christ raised the most money, followed by Symmes Valley Elementary and “Nate’s Mates.”

“Each year I am more impressed with the teams,” said Stephanie Burcham, one of the event’s organizers.

“It seems like the teams are always willing to step up and make that extra effort for the cause and what the money means in the local community,&uot; she said.

Burcham said that everybody in the community pulled together to make the event a big success. Even at the closing ceremonies, attendance was higher than it has been since the event was started four year ago.

The Ohio University Proctorville campus was ready to “Take Up the Fight, Party all Night,” the name of its Mardi Gras-inspired tent.

The unique display, complete with colorful beads and red beans and rice, took first place in the best decorated camp site.

“We went to Mardi Gras this year, and we just wanted to carry out the theme here,” said Stephan Harris, a junior pre-law/business major serving as captain of the team.

Last year, the team took second place for its Hawaiian luau tent.

Kim Keffer, director of enrollment services at Ohio University Southern, was captain of the school’s team “Jazzed for a Cure,” which was made up of students, their friends and supporters.

She said her team raised more than $5,000, with about half of that being raised at a jazz concert they sponsored.

“We have had so much support from everybody who participated,” Keffer said. “My mother had cancer, and that has served as my reason to relay.”

Another member of the team said she had two reasons to relay: her mother and father, both of whom died of cancer

“It brings back a lot of memories,” said Nina Queen, OUS coordinator of student activities and outreach services. “But, I’m hoping that through research, we can eliminate cancer all together.”

The night was bittersweet for many people like Queen.

They enjoyed the fun atmosphere and excitement that, but were touched by the emotion of the relay, including the opening ceremony with the survivor’s lap and the lighting of the luminaria honoring those affected by cancer.

Cancer survivor Julie Ball said she was touched by the family-like atmosphere at the Relay.

“I had been to relays, but this year some of us got together and decided to have our own,” Ball said. “It is such an emotional event.”

She said there are many younger victims of cancer, some of whom have died, so she feels fortunate to be a survivor and in recovery.

The team named in her honor, “Julie’s Jailers,” raised more than $10,000, according to team captain Penny Dodgion. They were fourth place in raising money for the cause.

“We wanted to do this in her honor,” Dodgion said. “She is a very special person. She has went through a lot and she has never even missed a day of work.”

Dodgion said the Ironton-based team also wanted to be a part of the event to get the western end of the county more representation in an event that has traditionally been dominated by eastern-end teams.

The team’s major fundraiser was bracelets made with glass beads with different colored beads representing the major forms of cancer. The bracelets are still on sale for $10 each at several area businesses.

Relay for Life was started more than 20 years ago. Since then, it has grown to include 4,560 events across the U.S. It is the nation’s largest nonprofit fundraising event.