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Bad economy doesn't hurt Relay For Life

Event raises $44,636 in fight against cancer

June 24, 2009
It's become almost a family reunion of sorts. Each June, hundreds of people come to the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School track, catch up with one another, share in food and drink, play games and shed tears for those no longer here.

While the ninth annual Crawford County Relay For Life — this past Friday evening through Saturday morning — was similar to those before it, it was just as special for those spending part or all of the event's 18 hours at the track to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

This year's Relay raised $44,636.50. Although below the goal of $50,000, the amount was about the same as last year and the ACS was pleased, especially in light of the bad economy, Rebecca Graff, a community representative of the organization, said.

From David Eastridge's invocation, in which he prayed that "we see a world that renders no cancer, no disease," to the Luminaria Ceremony at dusk, where more than 600 candles and tiki torches circling the track were lit in honor of cancer survivors and those who have lost their battle with the disease as their names were read aloud, Friday night's activities were filled with emotion.

However, as is the case with each Relay, there also was much celebration. Pam Helms of Milltown, who co-chaired this year's event with her husband, the Rev. Bill Helms, told of being a one-year breast cancer survivor.

The cancer ended up being more aggressive than doctors originally thought, having spread to her lymph nodes, and she had to undergo a year of treatment following surgery.

"But, you know, I'm thankful for that year," Helms said, explaining it made her a stronger person and gave her the opportunity to meet many people.

Instead of allowing the disease to define who she was as a person, Helms, throughout that year, decided she was still the same woman — a wife, mother, church organist — who just happened to be undergoing treatments for cancer.

In recognition of this being the 25th consecutive year of RFLs — the first was in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash., when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran more than 80 miles on a track in 24 hours to raise $27,000 to fight cancer — Helms urged those in attendance to find a 25th hour in their day, a 25th hour to do something extra in the fight against the disease. That something extra, she said, could be encouraging others to be screened or beginning work on next year's Relay.

"There are lots of things you can do," Helms said. "Just look for that extra hour "

The opening ceremony also recognized students from Crawford County High School, who held their own day-long Relay prior to the last day of school. Student representatives Chelsea Benham and Kim Holzbog presented the Helmses the $1,400 raised.

"Isn't that fantastic?" Bill Helms asked the crowd.

Helms said the efforts of the students and those participating in past and present RFLs to raise money for the American Cancer Society, formed in 1913 by a group of people wanting to work together to end cancer, are important.

"You know what?" he asked. "It's working. It's working."

Since 1991, the cancer mortality rate has decreased by 14 percent and there are now 11 million cancer survivors in the United States, the Helmses said.

The theme for this year's RFL was the "Colors of Relay," and the 22 teams — up from 15 a year ago — decorated their campsites with a color that represent a type of cancer, such as pink for breast cancer. As usual, the campsites were a blend of information and fun, with bright colors and decorations of all sorts, including banners and pinwheels.

Although the bulk of the fundraising was done beforehand, several of the teams worked throughout the event to raise every penny they could. As with the campsites, the fundraisers were light-hearted, with everything from walking tacos to foot massages available.

The top fundraising teams were: Moms on a Mission, $7,714; Can-Rem-Su, $5,115; and Pammy's Gang, $3,622.

Join Together for a Cure won the Best Overall campsite award, while the Healbillies's campsite received the Survivor's Choice award.

A new award this year was the Spirit Award. Given to the team that best embodies the spirit of Relay, the award was given to Moms on a Mission.

"I'm really, really pleased with how things went," Graff said, "especially with the amount of teams that we had."


Crawford County has until Aug. 31 to reach its goal of $50,000, and the ACS and the Dubois County Bombers baseball team are teaming up to help.

The Bombers will host "Paint the Park Purple Night" on July 17. The Evansville ACS office is asking RFL teams within its district to sell tickets to the game, with a portion of the proceeds going to ACS.

Adult tickets (13 and older) cost $7, while youth tickets (12 and younger) cost $5. Advanced tickets can be purchased through July 7 from RFL team members or by calling the ACS office at 1-800-543-5245.

Tickets can also be ordered by mail by sending a check, payable to Dubois County Bombers, to 6301 Old Boonville Highway, Suite B, Evansville, IN 47715. Be sure to make note of the date of the game and the number of tickets.

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Barbara Shaw
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