UNION COUNTY — Churches, businesses, schools, and other groups came together to spend much of the night of Friday, May 11 walking for a good cause and raised more than $60,000 for it.
Relay For Life is a community-based fundraising event of the American Cancer Society that began in May 1985 when Dr. Gordon Klatt, a a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Washington, decided he wanted to raise money for the society by walking around the track at the University of Puget Sound’s Baker Stadium. Klatt walked around the track for 24 hours during which friends paid $25 each to run or walk 30 minutes with him. By the end of those 24 hours Klatt had walked 83 miles and raised $27,000 for cancer research.
Thirty-three years later, Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s must successful fundraising event. Each year there are more than 5,000 Relay For Life events in 20 countries around the world. In the United States of America alone, approximately 4 million people take part in Relay For Life events in 5,000 communities across the nation.
One of those communities is Union County and this year’s Relay For Life event was held this past Friday at the Union County Fairgrounds from 7 p.m. that evening to 1 a.m. Saturday.
Friday’s Relay For Life event began with Survivor Recognition in which local cancer survivors are publicly recognized. Survivor Recognition includes a Survivor Reception which this year was sponsored by Crescent Hospice. The reception was followed by the Survivor Lap in which the cancer survivors, walking as a group, take the first lap of the evening around the track.
Another tradition of Relay For Life is the Luminaria Ceremony in which bags bearing the names of cancer survivors and those who did not survive their battle with the disease are placed around the track. Each bag has a candle in it which is lit in honor of those who survived and in memory of those who did not.
Music was also a part of the evening, with performances by “Not Even Brothers” and “O’Shields & Bailey.”
Union County Relay For Life Event Leader Beth Lancaster said that this year’s event drew 22 teams who spent the night walking around the fairground track to raise money for cancer research. Those teams were:
• Fairforest Baptist Church
• Over The Hill Gang
• Duncan Acres United Methodist Church
• The Mighty Wildcats of Jonesville Baptist Church
• Founders Federal Credit Union
• Monarch Elementary School
• Union Dental Group
• St. Luke Baptist Church
• Red Spot
• Jonesville Elementary/Middle School
• Inman Family & Friends
• Foster Park Elementary School
• Ellen Sagar Nursing Home
• Buffalo United Methodist Church
• Bethel Baptist Church
• Austin Rehab
• Bantam Chef
• Corinth Baptist Church
• Check Cancer For Check*
• Covenant Baptist Church
• Dollar General
* The Check the team is seeking to check cancer for is Chester “Check” Lawson, a cancer survivor who served as the Celebrity Ribbon Cutter helping to kick off this year’s Relay For Life.
In the years since it began, Relay For Life has, worldwide, raised approximately $5 billion, a figure that, as of Friday, had grown by more than $60,000.
Lancaster said the local teams, many of which also set up tents at the event, helped raise a total of $64,370.05 by the end of the evening. She said this was nearly 75 percent of the $85,000 goal the American Cancer Society has set for Union County Relay For Life for this year. While they have another $20,000 to raise to meet their goal, Lancaster said she was confident that Union County would do so.
“We still have more coming in and people are still fundraising,” Lancaster said. “The year doesn’t end for this fundraising campaign until August.”
Relay For Life moved closer to meeting its fundraising goal this past Tuesday when the Union Civitan Club make a $1,000 donation. The donation was presented at the Club’s meeting at the Inn at Merridun. It was presented by Civitan Barbara Rippy to Union County Relay For Life Experience Leader Torance Inman.
The money raised by the Union County Relay For Life and its counterparts across America and around the world go to the American Cancer Society which uses the funds for:
• Research grants and research programs
• Prevention programs
• Community and patient support programs
• Detection and treatment programs
• Construction of Hope Lodges
In 2013, a study conducted by the American Cancer Society showed the following impact of the funds raised through Relay For Life:
• Saved patients more than $38 million in lodging costs by providing a free place to stay through the Hope Lodge program.
• Provided more than 380,000 rides to and from treatment or medical appointments.
• Contributed to a 50 percent drop in smoking since 1946.
• Marked a 20 percent decline in cancer related deaths since 1991 resulting in 1.3 million lives saved during that time.
If you would like to help the Union County Relay For Life reach its goal and help the American Cancer Society in the battle against cancer call Beth Lancaster at 864-426-3438.