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Relay for Life total nears $92,000

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Large crowd takes part in activities at the fairgrounds

By Dave Taylor

Carroll County Relay for Life has raised more than $92,000 following its annual 12-hour event fundraiser for the battle against cancer Friday evening through Saturday morning at Carroll County Fairgrounds.

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Money is still coming in, according to Relay for Life chairman Scott Niswonger.

“I have cash money already deposited and check deposits sent off to the ACS headquarters,” accounting chairperson Beth Toombs said Monday. “I made the cash deposit Saturday morning as soon as U.S. Bank opened.”

“We are very happy with the result,” Niswonger said. “We knew the 2009 Relay For Life would be a challenge because of the very difficult economic climate. Many people were rightfully worried about their jobs and being able to pay their bills.”

Niswonger, was appreciative of the efforts of all those involved with the event for the American Cancer Society.

“I’m not going to attempt to say all the thank you’s that need to be said this morning,” said Niswonger Monday in an email. “First, because it’s not possible, second because I would forget some and third because my old, out-of-shape body and brain still ache from the weekend of wonderful activities.”

The theme of this year’s Relay for Life is “Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.” A large crowd was on hand to “celebrate” the lives of those who have battled cancer. Organizers of the event stress that the strength of survivors inspires others to continue the fight. An important part of each Relay event is “remembering” those who have been lost to the disease. Participants who have walked alongside people battling cancer can grieve and find healing through the process. By raising money to help enable the American Cancer Society volunteers can “fight back” in the effort to put an end to the disease.

Since the first event in 1986, Relay For Life has become the American Cancer Society’s signature activity, according to the Web site www.relayforlife.org. It offers everyone in a community an opportunity to participate in the fight against cancer. Teams of people across the country camp out at a local school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path, according to ACS.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organi zation dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.

The volunteer-driven Relay for Life events give the society a local presence, creating a sense of community by bringing people together in a moving and fun atmosphere.

“The appreciation that we have for the entire community is huge,” Niswonger said. “Everyone contributed what they could contribute whether that was time, energy or fundraising.”

Organizers were pleased with the crowd that had gathered at the fairgounds.

“We did have a huge turnout for the opening ceremony of the Relay,” Toombs said. “It was great to see so many come out and support the survivors and caregivers as they took those first two laps.”

Following the opening ceremonies a large contingent of cancer survivors were given recognition individually with commemorative medals, and collectively as they walked a lap together to begin the Relay. Caregivers joined with many of them in making a second lap. This lap honored those who are currently providing care for a cancer patient, or who have been a caregiver to someone with cancer in the past.

“It reminds us of the journey that they have traveled thus far with cancer,” Toombs said. “They are an inspiration.”

A Luminaria Ceremony commemorated the passing of loved ones who have been claimed by the disease as balloons containing “messages to heaven” were released into the sky.

Among other highlights of the 12-hour community-based event were the best decorated campsite contest, a quitters lap for those who have chosen to quit smoking, a trash fashion show, cheese ball toss, cornhole games, dance party laps and poker laps.

As the evening progressed into the early hours of Saturday morning, there were special laps by participants wearing pajamas with prizes for the best PJs.

Purple Spirit laps included a prize to the participant wearing the best purple attire. Some participants came to the event adorned with purple hair.

One popular attraction was the dunking booth operated by the Carrollton Masonic Lodge 134 F. & A.M. Youngsters and older folks alike enjoyed creating a big splash as a number of folks, including Carroll County Magistrate Mark Bates, took the plunge to help raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Toombs was appreciative of the effort put forth by local volunteers, sponsors and teams. “Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication in our community’s fight against cancer,” she said.

“This was a tough year with the economic issues surrounding  us,” Niswonger observed, “and we don’t all have the same resources. But with everyone pulling together to do and to give what they can, the Relay For Life has enjoyed another tremendous year of giving back to fight cancer.

“The community stepped up,” Niswonger observed. “In the end, our community realizes that cancer doesn’t care about recessions and that people facing the difficulties of cancer are needing our help now more than ever.”

Nearly 30 teams, including those representing a variety of local businesses, industry and health providers, participated this year to raise money. A number of area churches also fielded teams in the fundraising effort. There were 23 walking teams and 4 teams that did fundraising only, Niswonger said.

“The Relay For Life of Carroll County committee, team captains and team members are fantastic. We had a lot of familiar faces along with some new ones,” Niswonger said. “Carroll County is blessed with a lot of people that genuinely care about the families that are facing the fight against cancer. We have many volunteers that have worked on the Relay For Life for many years.”

“It was great to have so many returning teams,” Toombs said, and lauded “the new ones that joined us this year.”

“The teams were great,” Niswonger agreed. “The committee was great. We held the ‘Concert For A Cure’ at the Carroll County Middle School.  All of our teams held a variety of fundraisers to support the cause.  We also had a lot of great support from our corporate and local business sponsors.”

The Carroll County Chapter of Relay for Life will continue to accept money for the 2009 Relay for Life until the Aug. 31 deadline.

Niswonger said a local group of people is working to establish a “Cancer Resource Center” located at the Carroll County Medical Center where people can get information related to cancer.  Anyone interested in being trained to work in this new county resource should call Jamie Webb at (859) 372-7880.