By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Most of them dressed in purple tee shirts and purple beads, and even a few wearing purple capes and butterfly wings, the women (along with a few men) of Relay For Life gathered to celebrate “Ordinary Heroes.” Whether cancer survivors, caregivers or relayers, it is these everyday heroes who are front and center in the fight for a world with “less cancer and more birthdays,” as Relay For Life Chair Marcia Webb stated in her opening speech.
At the Kickoff event Tuesday evening, Sept. 17, in the NFCC Student Center, with tables full of streamers, balloons, glittery party decorations and candles, it was a festive atmosphere full of hope and energy as the evening got underway.
Relay For Life began in 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt of Tacoma, Washington, ran around a track in a grueling 24-hour one-man marathon, raising $17,000 for the fight against cancer.
In 2012, an estimated four million people will participate in some 5200 Relay events in the United States.
Madison Relay For Life’s goal for 2012 is to raise $56,000, which they hope to exceed by a good margin. Their 2011 goal back in April was $45,000, and they raised $51,000.
Another cause for celebration was the fact that so many teams had already registered for the 2012 Relay, as Webb and Team Developer Judy Bentley acknowledged each one: Madison County Community Bank, Eli’s Friends and Family, Sweet Tees, Fellowship Baptist Church, The Seven Ups, Nestle Waters, Madison County Central School, Madison Academy, The Brown Bombers, Lake Park of Madison, Wells Fargo, Tri-County Electric Co-op and MDL Training Union. Webb and Bentley also announced the Top Team champion fundraisers for 2011, Team Nestle Waters.
Even so, the fight against cancer is a grim reality for some, as an emotional Cindy Vees, Publicity Chair of Relay For Life, related in her own story, one laced with a double dose of irony.
When she arrived in Madison three years ago, Relay For Life was very much in the local news, so much so that she ended up participating in her very first Relay. New to town, she knew only a handful of people, “but by the time I finished, I felt as if knew hundreds,” she said, after spending so much time reading all those names on the luminaria, names of those who had lost their battle with cancer.
In her story’s first shock of irony, when she arrived at home that evening after her first event, she learned that one of her dear friends had just died of cancer. Less than 60 days later, came a second shock: Vees herself was diagnosed with cancer.
“After that,” she said, “Relay For Life took on a whole new meaning for me.”
In the ensuing months of rounds of doctors and chemo, Cheryl Abercrombie became her caregiver, driving her to the doctor for her chemo treatments and making sure that she and her children had always had plenty of food and regular meals. Abercrombie was her hero, said Vees, keeping her focused on healing, and her children were her heroes, telling her they loved her and that she was beautiful, even after she was bald from the chemo treatments.
She walked her second Relay without hair. The following year, she walked her third Relay as a personal victory. It was the first anniversary of her very last chemo treatment.
“It is only because of everyday heroes like the people in this room,” she said. “There would not be survivors without you all. Thank you…for being everyday heroes.”
Then, with the lights in the room dimmed, those gathered lit candles in honor of friends and loved ones who had lost their battle.
But the fight goes on, and the evening ended on another note of hope and celebration. Madison Relay will be spreading the word in upcoming months and encouraging others to form teams and participate in the 2012 Relay for Life at Boot Hill, Madison County High School, April 27-28.
A team consists of 12-15 people, and each team needs to register. To register your team online, go to www.relayforlife.org/madison.fl.
Beginning October 25, there will be team parties on the fourth Tuesday of every month, in the Madison County Community Bank’s boardroom upstairs. Team members can gather to encourage each other, share fundraising tips, and enjoy each other’s company as they celebrate together the upcoming fight for a world with more birthdays…and less cancer.