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Relay Kickoff a home run

Organizers hope to raise $55,000 in fight against cancer

February 23, 2011
Fifty-five thousand dollars. That's the amount organizers hope the 11th annual Crawford County Relay For Life will raise in the fight against cancer. If enthusiasm is a barometer for success, then it's a good bet this year's fundraiser for the American Cancer Society will be a home run.

Second-grader Wyatt Gall, a member of the Leavenworth Elementary School dance squad, rocks out during the Crawford County Relay For Life Kickoff Thursday night at the Crawford County 4-H Community Park. Photos by Chris Adams
About 200 people — the most ever, according to organizers — attended the kickoff for this year's Relay Thursday night in the pavilion at the Crawford County 4-H Community Park south of Marengo. Like this year's Relay, which will be June 17 and 18 at the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School track, the kickoff featured a sports theme.

Following performances by the dance squads from Patoka and Leavenworth Elementary schools, children shot baskets on goals set up on the north end of the pavilion and played games, including Connect, a Hula-Hoop version of musical chairs. They also participated in jump rope and Hula-Hoop contests.

Like Relay, the approximately hour-and-a-half kickoff featured a lot of fun, but also like Relay, it honored cancer survivors as well as those who, unfortunately, have lost their battle with the disease.

With the lights dimmed, heads were bowed for a moment of silence. A musical slide show of photographs from past Relays then was shown, with images of survivors expressing the hope of every cancer patient and their loved ones, while photos of those no longer with us served as poignant reminders of the need to continue raising money for research for a cure.

"What we want to remember is this is why we walk, and someday we will find a cure for this dreaded disease," said Jean Melton, who is serving as co-chair of this year's Relay with her daughter, Alicia Lutz.

Melton and Lutz personally understand the importance Relay plays in the battle against cancer, as both are cancer survivors themselves. That is why Melton was ecstatic following Thursday's kickoff.

Co-chair Jean Melton, left, and her granddaughter, Cori Lutz, the eventís entertainment chair, talk to children before playing a game.
"This is the most excitement we've ever generated for (the) kickoff," she said, adding she was especially pleased that it was well attended by several parts of the county. "We want to be sure we invite the community back for Relay."

This year's goal of $55,000 is more than the $49,618 generated by the 2010 event, which easily surpassed its goal of $45,000.

"It's phenomenal that such a rural community can do such awesome things," said Tracy Stricker, community representative for the American Cancer Society Great Lakes Division.

Stricker, who has worked in nonprofit fundraising for several years, said the community's efforts are inspirational.

"I have never been left speechless until I started working in this community," she said.

This year's Relay will begin an hour later than usual — at 7 p.m. — in order to allow people wishing to attend the opening ceremony more time to arrive, Stricker said.

The evening featured a moment of silence and slide show that honored cancer survivors as well as those who have lost their battle to the disease.
Another change, Melton said, is the opening ceremony will be held in the high school's air-conditioned Ron Ferguson Gymnasium, as the heat at times has been almost too much for some survivors. Following the ceremony, everyone will walk to the track for the Survivors Lap, she said.

Stricker said the ACS hopes to have 19 teams this year, up from 11 a year ago. Unlike past years, there aren't restrictions on the number of members for teams, she said.

"You can have one person or you can have 100, it doesn't matter," Stricker said.

Lutz's daughter, Cori, a junior at the University of Louisville, is this year's entertainment chair.

"We're going to have a blast," she said, adding there will be "very upbeat" activities for all ages throughout the night, all the way to the closing ceremony on the morning of June 18.

Melton agreed with her granddaughter. "It is going to be an awesome event."

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