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Plans for RFL taking shape

May 13, 2009
Crawford County's ninth annual Relay For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society is still weeks away but planning has been underway for months.

Husband and wife Bill and Pam Helms of Milltown were named the county co-chairs at the 2009 RFL kickoff earlier this year, and have been busy working with team captains to reach this year's goal of $50,000, some $5,000 more than was raised last year.

The Helmses became involved in the Crawford County RFL a year ago, serving on the Milltown United Methodist Church team, after moving to the area a couple of years ago when Bill became pastor of the church. Bill had participated in Relay events before, but it was Pam's first, and it was especially meaningful as she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the time.

"So, last year, I was there with my wig on and doing my laps and had all my children and grandchildren walking," she said.

"So, this year, Bill felt like the Lord was leading him to take this over, that this was something that he could do."

This year's event will be Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20, at the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School track, and the Helmses hope it will be just as special as those of previous years with a few new twists.

The full schedule hasn't been finalized, but the Helmses are certain this year's Relay will include a silent auction from 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday. Besides items donated from businesses, including boat rides from Gilligan's Boats near Patoka Lake, the Helmses said the silent auction will include something special from each team.

"We hope each team will provide a theme basket with some prizes in it," Bill Helms said.

In honor of 2009 being the 25th consecutive year of RFL events throughout the country — the first was in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash., when Dr. Gordy Klatt, circled a track for 24 straight hours to raise $27,000 to fight cancer — the theme at Crawford County will be the "Colors of Relay."

Each team is being asked to decorate its camp site with a color that represents a type of cancer, such as pink for breast cancer, and to include educational materials about that cancer in its theme basket for the silent auction.

A 3-point shooting contest will be new this year (registration begins Friday; call the Helmses at 633-4294), and officials hope to have a car show, both in an effort to draw more people from the community who aren't associated with the Relay, Bill said.

The teams — 17 have signed up so far, more than a year ago — also will be offering food and other things during the event to raise money. Homemade ice cream, walking tacos, hamburgers and hot dogs are just a sampling of the carnival-style treats to be available. Another team is planning on providing foot massages to weary walkers.

This year's Relay again will feature a "soft start" at 4 p.m. followed by the opening ceremony at 6. At the conclusion of the opening ceremony, cancer patients and their caregivers will be invited to walk in the Survivor's Lap, the first lap of each Relay. RFL participants then will be treated to dinner donated by Mulzer Crushed Stone Inc.

At dusk, lights around the track will be turned off and luminarias and tiki torches circling the track will be lit one by one in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of those who have lost their battle with the disease as their names are read aloud.

Luminarias are available for a donation, and tiki torches may be reserved for $100. They may be purchased ahead of time by calling the Helmses at 633-4294 or may be purchased at Relay.

While the event, which will conclude at 10 a.m. on Saturday (many Relays are switching from the traditional 24-hour format to 18 hours), will be a deeply emotional time, it also promises to be a lot of fun, the Helmses said.

Justin Cooper again will provide deejay services, and Jeanie Melton and her daughter, Alicia Lutz, both cancer survivors, and Lutz's daughter, Corey, have scheduled several games and fun theme laps to keep walkers wide awake throughout the night.

One of the more memorable events of Relay actually occurs a couple of weeks before the event. The annual Survivors Dinner will be Thursday, June 4, in the Clover Room at the Crawford County 4-H Community Park, located across S.R. 66 from Crawford County Junior-Senior High School. Jasper Engines and Transmissions is helping donate the food.

Dr. Barbara Chang, a cancer survivor who attends Milltown United Methodist Church, will be the featured speaker.

Cancer survivors who would like to attend may call Mary Jo King at 338-3254.

Also, the Old English Golf Course will host a RFL Golfathon June 1 through 6. The event, sponsored by the Pammy's Gang RFL team, will cost $20 per day for unlimited golf, with players asked to have people sponsor them for each hole. The golfer who raises the most money will receive a year's membership to the course. Checks payable to the American Cancer Society may be sent to Bill Helms, P.O. Box 278, Milltown IN 47145. For more information, call 633-4294.

In addition, teams will be busy hosting dinners, cook-outs, car washes, bake sales, yard sales and other fundraisers between now and June 19 in an effort to reach the $50,000 goal.

Young people are also getting in on the act, as Crawford County High School students will host their own Relay on Tuesday, May 26, during regular school hours.

Persons who would like to donate money for the ACS or supplies, such as water and snacks, for the student event may call teachers Jill Stutzman or Tonya Roser at the school at 365-2125.

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