Teams discuss the many 'reasons to Relay'

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It began six years ago, when one of Central Elementary's own was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, five other staff members, one teacher's husband and a student have fought the disease.

Michael Fisher, co-captain of Central's Relay For Life team, points to those individual battles as their reason to Relay. Cancer has touched the students' lives in so many ways.

"There is an overwhelming response from the students," she said.

The school holds many fundraisers, including a mini-Relay For Life and penny wars.

"It is touching to watch the kids break their banks (for the penny war)," Fisher said with a smile.

During Relay in April, there will be a student representative on the track at all times.

Heartland Automotive will have a team for the second year. Two of its staff members have survived cancer, which only supplies part of the reason to Relay.

Team captain Beth Gregory said the disease has touched everyone in one way or another. "It's right in our face," she said.

Gregory's family has struggled with cancer, causing her to volunteer. The plant has already begun its fundraising with a soup bar and a dessert bar. It seems the current economic situation and fear of losing employment has not stopped employees at Heartland from giving to Relay.

The Heartland team raised more than $7,000 last year, according to Amanda Mills, who is serving on the committee this year.

"It unites the whole plant," Mills added.

The team will continue fundraising with a baked potato bar, raffles, selling Yankee candles, a golf scramble and yard sale.

Gregory is currently in the market for an old toilet. The idea is to paint it purple (Relay's signature color) and "flush out cancer," she said.

The toilet will be used as a fundraiser leading up to and during Relay. If anyone has a toilet they would like to donate, Gregory can be contacted at 653-4263.

Several Relay teams, including Central and Heartland, met for a kick-off breakfast Tuesday at the Putnam Inn. Billie Kaufman with American Cancer Society spoke to the crowd about healthcare and how ACS offers healthcare coverage to the uninsured.

Keynote speaker Christina Wagoner, who is a health psychologist, shared stories that were not necessarily sad, but filled with hope.

"I have seen human strength," she said about some of her patients, saying that today, "bald is beautiful and pink is everywhere."

In the past, certain cancers were kept behind closed doors. Now, information on the disease is available everywhere.

Information is important, Wagoner reminded the group. Publications by ACS include debunking odd treatments or the misinformation that consuming sugar causes cancer to return.

The community can expect to see banners and cardboard luminaries around town soon. Organizations will have them displayed until Relay in April.

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