Relaying Annual Gains
Cancer never sleeps, and those that are fighting for a cure are staying busy, too.
With the Watauga County Relay For Life recently announcing its totals for the last fiscal year, plans are already underway for next summer's fund-raising event.
Watauga County raised $260,739 last year, an increase of more than $10,000 over the previous year's totals. Watauga ranked second in the United States among communities of its size in total dollars contributed, up from the sixth spot last year.
About 5,000 Relay for Life events are held in the U.S. each year.
"We are pleased with that," said Relay co-chairwoman Sharon Trivette.
"We expected to be lower with the economy, but we did increase over the year before. We're getting ready for next year."
The total amount raised in Watauga included $25,717 from the Appalachian State University Relay For Life, which was held in April, and is sponsored by the campus group Colleges Against Cancer.
That amount garnered the ASU event an award for most growth by a campus Relay.
"During our kick-off event last March, we told our 100-plus team captains, 'Cancer doesn't care about the economy,'"said Trivette, "and Watauga residents responded by showing that they care about beating cancer. This is a fight that Watauga County is committed to, as evidenced by the fact that we have been one of the top 10 fund-raising communities in the country for the past 11 years, five times as number one."
Other awards received at the Leadership Conference include the Power of Hope Award, which the Watauga County Relay For Life was given for having the most survivor participation in the country, with 751 cancer survivors involved. Watauga County has received the award for five years in a row.
Trivette said reaching local survivors was even more satisfying than a successful fundraising year, because it builds a local community that can provide inspiration and support. It's also part of the on-going work of Relay volunteers.
"We are always adding people to our survivor list," Trivette said. "I'm more proud of that than the money."
The Watauga Relay also received an award for having 100 percent school participation. Every school in the county had one or more Relay For Life teams.
Fifty of the 74 teams that participated in the 2009 Watauga Relay will receive All-Star Awards from the American Cancer Society. These awards are based on amount raised per team member.
The top two individual money raisers were Della Presnell, with $9,857 (number one for six years) and Gail Gross, with $3,646. The top child fund-raiser was Colby Warren, for the second year in a row, with $1,327.
The top teams were Friends For Life, BACC Walking with Spirit, First Baptist Church Crusaders, Ted's Troop, Cove Creek Relay Raiders, Howard's Creek Searchers, Jerry's Intimidators, Weaver Warriors and Tilson's Tumor Terminators.
Trivette said the event was more than just a chance to contribute money to cancer research, and said while the money doesn't go directly to local cancer care, many patients and families will ultimately benefit from the research.
"Other than the government, we're (Relay For Life) the largest funder of cancer research," Trivette said. "Generally, the funding goes to the newer ideas. We did have two of our funded scientists this past year receive Nobel Prizes. We're pretty well on the cutting edge of what's new, and it comes back because people will see it in the treatments here at home.
"Those dollars are more effective where they will reach everybody. Those research efforts are going to come back to us."
For next year, Trivette hopes to boost the number of participants. Teams of eight to 15 people gather for a night of activities, on-site camping, music, remembrance and celebration.
"We didn't have quite as many teams," Trivette said. "We've had as many as 99 teams, and we're always looking for new ideas and new volunteers."
This year will also mark the last at the high school, which has been the site of the Relay for the past several years.
"We're really grateful to the people at the high school because they're going to be right in the middle of moving (to the new high school)."
The 2010 Watauga County Relay For Life will be held June 18 and 19. The annual Kick-Off event is scheduled for March 8.
Committee positions are open and volunteers are needed now, Trivette said. Volunteers and teams can contact Trivette at (828) 297-1691 or Kathy Idol at (828) 264-5240.
"The funds raised through Relay For Life events enable us to continue our investment in the fight against cancer through research, education, advocacy and patient services," Sheila Pait, American Cancer Society Staff Partner with the South Atlantic Division. "Thanks to the generosity of our volunteers and donors, the money raised by Relay For Life participants goes directly to the American Cancer Society's lifesaving programs."
More information on organizing a team and tips on fund-raising are at http://www.relayforlife.org.