ACS marks 25 years of Relay for Life

Published 1:36 pm Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Butler County American Cancer Society Board members, volunteers and team captains turned out Tuesday night at Cambrian Ridge to celebrate, remember and fight back.

The occasion was the official kickoff for the 2009 Relay For Life, set for May 8 – 9 at the Greenville YMCA. The 2009 theme will be Western one: “Rustlin’ for a Cure.”

There were festive balloons and plenty of purple – the signature color for Relay For Life – on display, including a purple cake marking 2009 as the 25th year of the ACS fundraiser in the United States.

And Butler County will do it right in this milestone year, promises event chair Galahad Smith.

“Relay will be, as it is supposed to be, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. We are going to do a little better about our planning this time around,” Smith assured those present.

During the meeting, several board members and volunteers shared stories of their own battles with cancer.

“When I found out I had lung cancer . . . the only thing I could think of is that I have a two-year-old child at home and I can’t die,” Marie Owens, sponsorship chair, said.

“I had seen a close relative with cancer who was so sick, and I was afraid.”

Owens went through chemotherapy, lost her hair and ultimately won her battle with cancer, only to discover her mother had breast cancer.

“That’s why I do Relay – so someone else won’t have to go through what we did. And the ACS helps people get the treatments they need and the transportation, also,” Owens said.

“Thank goodness I was in a position where I didn’t need that extra help, but there are many others who do need it.”

June Earnest, who works with Survivorship Recognition, was diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago.

“My doctor looked at my routine mammogram and advised me to see the surgeon. I sat in the car and cried while I waited to see him . . . mammograms are a great tool for early detection,” Earnest recalled. “I love Relay because it’s a celebration – a chance for survivors to celebrate life.”

Board member Bennie Payne has beaten cancer not once, but twice.

“I am proof you can survive, and more than once,” Payne said.

ACS volunteer Liz Johnston’s breast cancer was detected ‘very early,” she said.

“I’m so glad to say I am a survivor.”

Those present at Tuesday night’s event held their own Luminaria Ceremony, perhaps “the most touching part” of Relay each year, said Ceremony Co-Chair Ethelyn Watson.

“Cancer has no preferences . . . it’s up to us to fight and show cancer who’s the boss.”

After lighting luminarias in honor or memory of their own loved ones, everyone joined hands in a show of unity against cancer.

Team Recruitment Chair Samantha Stabler urged everyone to “Take Up the Fight!”

She also recognized three small teams (15 or less members) who made big accomplishments at last year’s Relay: Southside Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church and Harley’s Angels, the smallest group, which raised $8,700 alone.

“Borrow some of their Relay magic and get your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors together and form a team . . . we will give you a lot of great ideas for fundraising,” Stabler promised.

The first Team Captain’s meeting is set for 5:30 p.m., January 8 at the YMCA. The ACS board will have their regular meeting at noon Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Cambrian Ridge.

For more information, visit www.cancer.org or call 1-800-ACS-2345 any time.