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Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk Count
y Publishing Company

Relay For Life gears up for another record year
Polk County Enterprise - January 2009

LIVINGSTON – Preparations are under way for the 8th Annual Relay For Life of Polk County May 1 and 2 at Pedigo Park. The team-based, family-oriented event raises money for the American Cancer Society and is the largest Relay For Life event in East Texas with thousands of people turning out each year to walk the track, enjoy the free entertainment and support the cause by purchasing food, crafts and more. Relay For Life is a fun-fi lled overnight event that begins at 7 p.m. with a special lap for cancer survivors and caregivers. Anyone who has battled cancer or is now battling cancer is considered a survivor and is invited to visit www.polkcountyrelay.org to register for the event. If you do not have Internet access, you may call Survivorship Chair Genette Harrelson at 936-327- 3292. Every survivor will receive a free T-shirt and an invitation for themselves and a guest to the Survivor Celebration Dinner. The meal is free and is provided by Clifton Chevrolet of Corrigan. This year the Survivor Celebration Dinner will be held prior to the actual Relay event to give survivors and caregivers a chance to pick up their T-shirt, visit and enjoy a great meal and entertainment. This year’s event will also offer several hundred Polk County residents the opportunity to take part in a monumental study by signing up for Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS-3). The purpose of CPS-3 is to better understand how lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors may cause or prevent cancer and to ultimately eliminate cancer as a major health problem for this and future generations.

The American Cancer Society’s Department of Epidemiology and Surveillance Research is inviting men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 years who have no personal history of cancer to join a historic research study with the ultimate goal of enrolling 500,000 adults from various racial/ethnic backgrounds from across the U.S. Study enrollment will take place at the Relay For Life of Polk County May 1. Teams Chair Tammi Ogletree is actively recruiting new teams for this year’s event. If your company, organization, family or other group would like to register as a team and help raise money in the fight against cancer, visit www.polkcountyrelay. org. and get started. Team captain meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at First State Bank’s main office at 112 Polk Street. There will be a special Team Captain University session for new team captains or anyone considering forming a team at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 at First State Bank. This orientation will teach you everything you need to know about Relay, fundraising and the American Cancer Society and its mission, advocacy and services. After forming a team you and your team members raise funds either individually or as a group (or both). Relay teams in Polk County have gotten pretty creative with fundraising and do everything from chance drawings for cool prizes, to bake sales, T-shirt sales, carnivals, dinners, pageants and more to raise money throughout the year. It’s never too late to get a team together. Every year there is at least one team that signs up the day before the event. In addition to the great feeling of doing something good for your fellow man, there are lots of prizes throughout the year and the night of the event. Each team will choose a “campsite” for the night of the event – most teams have onsite fundraisers and set up a canopy and table to sell food, drinks, crafts, glow-in-thedark goodies and more. You can also bring lawn chairs, ice chests, snacks, and a tent for sleeping — although since the event is non-stop until 7 a.m. Saturday there is little time to sleep. Every year the entertainment and activities chairmen line up performers for the evening and games to keep everyone clapping, laughing and awake. From barbershop quartets to rock-androll, and from Simon Says to our own “Buddy Boards”, there is something for every age. Once the sun sets and everyone has had an opportunity to purchase a luminaria in memory or in honor of loved ones lost in and fighting the battle against cancer, the entire park goes dark except for the glow of more than 1,000 candles. The music stops, the laughter fades and everyone takes a few minutes to walk the track and find the names of their friends and loved ones on the bags lining the track.

The Luminaria Ceremony is a time to reflect and mourn those we have lost. It is a time for tears and hugs. The event, like life, however, goes on and after a few minutes the hustle and bustle of an event that draws people from far and wide is under way again. The energy of the event flows naturally into the next ceremony at 10 p.m. when everyone is encouraged to take up the fight against cancer by making a personal pledge to Fight Back. The Fight Back Ceremony is the answer to the grief and helplessness so many feel during the Luminaria Ceremony. It is a time to realize that through Relay For Life individuals can come together in teams and as a community to fight back. The money raised at Relays throughout the year comes back to our communities through research, education, advocacy and services. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is the largest single recipient of research funding in Texas, with $40 million received in 2007. In addition, 93 cents of every dollar raised goes to research, education, advocacy and services, with just seven cents used for administrative costs. When the clock strikes 12, Midnight Madness kicks off with crazy team competitions followed by The Ellen Show with exclusive “guest stars”, dance competition and more. With just a couple of hours left in the overnight event, a lot of people wonder why the event lasts all night. Through the years lots of people have created poems and other methods of explaining the symbolism of Relaying all night, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that cancer never sleeps so we won’t either. At 5 a.m. a hot breakfast will be served to all in attendance courtesy of the Go Texan Committee. With the rising sun comes drawings for door prizes for those who made it through the night, awards to teams for the most money raised and the revealing of the event’s grand total. This year’s goal is $300,000. Along with all the work of the teams, a committee of volunteers works year round to organize and pull off one of the largest events in Polk County each May.

The Relay For Life of Polk County Committee is chaired this year by James Baugh and Tammi Ogletree. Ogletree is serving a dual role as co-chair of the event and teams chairman, responsible for coordinating and motivating the 70-plus expected teams. Working with Ogletree this year are Debbie Davis and Shelly Brown, as well as Huda Hill and Stephanie Spore who will handle the order and delivery of the 1,000-plus Tshirts for team members, sponsors, survivors and caregivers. Patricia Crawford, serving her fourth year with teams, is also serving as co-chair of accounting. Casey Evans-Smith is serving her final year as accountant and will co-chair the event next year with Ogletree. Genette Harrelson is serving her second year as the chairman of the survivor and caregiver committee. Debbie Clack is serving her second year as logistics chair for the event. Logistics is arguably the most difficult position on the committee, as Clack is responsible for making sure that everyone has everything needed for the event to go over smoothly. From parking to campsite assignments, to gathering hundreds of tables and chairs, cleaning restrooms and collecting trash, Clack has her plate full. The sponsorship chair is Allison Evans. Evans has been responsible for some of the largest growth in income for the organization over the last four years, increasing sponsor dollars from $10,000 in 2006 to $50,000 last year. The luminaria chairman again this year is Cindy Wilkinson.

Last year’s event had a record 1,500- plus luminaria lit for the ceremony, despite the pouring rain. Brenda Chalker is in charge of registration and data collection and makes sure that everyone has access to the organization website, conducts surveys the night of the event and oversees everything data related. Joel Salazar is serving his first year as chair of the entertainment committee formerly chaired by Kevan Wood who is now publicity chair. Lindsay Duke is responsible for the activities committee and has worked with teams for several years. Karen Cox is chairing hospitality this year and is responsible for helping coordinate food and drinks for the event. Lecie Kelly is the chair in charge of ceremonies and recruits guest speakers and makes sure that every part of the event is meaningful. With the event’s selection as the site for CPS-3 study enrollment, a new position was created and Amy Varnado is responsible for educating and recruiting local participants for the study. The organization is always looking for volunteers to chair committees, serve on sub-committees or to help on an as-needed basis. Currently, they are seeking a chairman for Mission Delivery to help educate the general public and team captains about the mission of the American Cancer Society and the services it provides.

Also needed are an Advocacy Chairman to advance the efforts of ACS CAN, the advocacy and lobbying arm of the organization that was responsible for bringing the Fight Back Express bus to Livingston in the fall. A Youth Liaison position would work between the growing number of youth teams at schools in the county and the main committee, helping to recruit youth members for the main committee and finding ways to engage youth in the event. Relay For Life is open to the public and runs from 7 p.m. Friday, May 1 until 7 a.m. Saturday, May 2 at the Trade Days Pavilions at Pedigo Park. No pets, no tobacco and no alcohol are allowed on the premises. If you are interested in being involved in Relay For Life of Polk County in any capacity, visit www. polkcountyrelay.org. For more information or call James Baugh at 936-327-4357 ext. 103 or via email at chairman@polkcountyrelay.org.



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