Relay for Life wants you to "Believe"
Polk County Enterprise - December 2007
LIVINGSTON - A group of Livingston women spread the Polk County Relay spirit all the way to New York City recently. Tammi Ogletree, Allison Evans, Amy Hendrix and Kenze Defee Byer decided to turn their girls' shopping trip into a mission to deliver the American Cancer Society's message of hope and a T-shirt to Robin Roberts, co-host of ABC's Good Morning America television show, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
The women are friends and members of Ogletree's Relay For Life team, The Believers, which is comprised of family and friends of Ogletree's husband, Ben, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005. As part of the team's fund-raising efforts they created and sold hundreds of multi-colored T-shirts with the simple word "Believe" printed across the front.
The slogan has been a huge hit both locally and across the East Texas region, voicing both people's confidence in a cure for cancer and some wearers' religious faith. It was this message of hope and faith the women wanted to deliver to Robin Roberts.
Ogletree and friends got into New York around 11 p.m. Wednesday but were still up and at the ABC Studios by 4:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 each wearing a Believe shirt in a different color.
The temperature hovered around 40 as they waited in line in coats and scarves. Anyone can stand outside the studio and watch but only a limited number are allowed inside the building and those must present photo IDs and pass through a metal detector — no big deal, they thought. They were taken aback when studio officials asked for their tickets to enter the studio.
"We had no idea we needed tickets, but I was quick and told them we left our tickets in our hotel room and they let us in," Ogletree laughed
Anyone who watched Good Morning America that morning could see Tammi and her friends standing directly behind Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer during the 8 a.m. lead-in segment. After that, they were a little difficult to identify except for a huge sign lettered in florescent colors. Thanks to Ogletree's height, the sign hovered over the heads of everyone in the crowd.
The sign read, "Livingston, Texas is helping to cure cancer. Believe."
"We really want to thank Gregg Faith at Livingston I.S.D. for making the sign," Ogletree said. It was the sign that caught the eye of one of the show's producers and helped the group wheedle their way into a private meeting with Robin Roberts.
"After the show was done Bob, one of the producers, told the crowd that there would be no photo opportunities that day," Ogletree recalled.
Not being one to take “no” for an answer, Ogletree got the attention of the producer who then came over to inquire about the sign and see what Ogletree needed.
Tammi explained about her group's involvement in Relay For Life and the popularity of the Believe shirts and told Bob they had two shirts, one for Robin and the other for Diane, but Ogletree balked when the producer told her he would make sure they got the shirts.
"I told him we really wanted to hand-deliver them," she said. "He thought about it for a minute and told us to wait while he spoke to Roberts' publicist."
After a short wait, the producer came back with Roberts' publicist who, to rest of the crowd's surprise, took Ogletree and her friends on a circuitous route through the studio and a freight elevator ride to get to Roberts who was in an upstairs studio.
"When we came into the studio wearing our Believe shirts, Robin saw us coming and yelled, "I believe!"
Ogletree said that Roberts was very touched by their story, knew all about Relay For Life and was thrilled with what they are doing in the fight against cancer.
In July, Roberts found a lump in her right breast and was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer. Roberts has since undergone a lumpectomy, discovered that her cancer is a more aggressive form than her doctors previously thought and is nearly finished with her eight-dose chemotherapy regimen. When Roberts began to lose her hair she went on air and had her head shaved and now wears a wig when co-hosting GMA.
It turned out that Roberts was scheduled for chemo the day Ogletree and her friends showed up and Roberts' publicist kept telling the women how happy she was that they had shown up because it really lifted Robin's spirits.
Even more inspiring to The Believers is that fact that Roberts wore her new Believe shirt to the hospital that day to receive her "red devil" chemo.
Ogletree's Relay For Life team, The Believers, was the top fund-raising team in the East Texas Region which includes more than 700 teams from 52 events.
The group raised more than $20,000, primarily from selling Believe shirts to hundreds of Polk County residents last Christmas season and leading up to the Relay For Life event in late April.
The Believers will be selling holiday-themed red with silver lettering T-shirts and sweatshirts again this year with delivery in time for the Hometown Christmas events on Dec. 8.
Anyone interested in purchasing a Believe shirt may contact their favorite Relay For Life team or the Polk County Enterprise at 327-4357.