"Believe" Taking the County By Storm
Polk County Enterprise - December 2007
LIVINGSTON – Polk County residents clearly believe in rallying behind the American Cancer Society as orders for the special holiday edition of the “Believe” T-shirts continue to pour in even though the deadline for receiving shirts by the Dec. 8 “Hometown Christmas” event has passed.
The phenomenon has become an event-wide fundraiser as Relay For Life teams around the county have raised money for their teams by partnering with “The Believer’s” Relay For Life of Polk County team headed by Team Development Chairman Tammi Ogletree.
As word continues to spread around the East Texas region the shirts have become a nearly full-time enterprise for the group as evidenced by the whopping 1,400 T-shirt orders received for the holiday “Believe” shirts.
Joyce Knierim, owner of Classic Promotions played a key part in the huge success of the shirts because it was her willingness to print the shirts at cost that made the venture viable. Knierim also has a personal stake in the success of the program since her mother was a breast cancer survivor.
“This is overwhelming I had no idea that Tammi’s original idea would run like wildfire,” says Knierim. “I’m so proud to be involved with it.”
When asked what she believes has lead to the success of the shirts, Ogletree responds, “This is a fundraiser that brings in the hometown spirit and sense of community.”
“It’s not about one team anymore, it’s about all the teams being involved in the same thing and the community getting involved, too – even the kids.”
Pine Ridge and Timber Creek Elementary and Livingston Intermediate schools played an integral part in reaching so many in the community by sending home order forms with students. The schools added the shirts to their other fundraisers because they’re a guaranteed money maker.
Many other teams are following suit, a move that makes some question Ogletree’s sanity, she laughs.
“People ask me – Why are sharing your biggest fundraiser? I tell them because it benefits everyone and that what Relay is all about. It’s not about my team or your team, it’s about cancer.”
Performance Car Wash sells the shirts in a variety of colors year round and can barely keep them on the counter, said owner Rhonda Woods, and the team is even in talks to supply the shirts for sale in a major retail chain, with all proceeds benefiting Relay For Life.
“Believe can stand for anything you want it to – from believing your team will win to bringing the troops home from Iraq to religious faith. It’s not just about believing in a cure, and that’s why the response has been so overwhelming,” said Woods.
Polk County Relay Chairman James Baugh said, “Relay event coordinators from other bigger areas have been asking their American Cancer Society Staff Partners what is going on in Polk County. How are they raising so much money?”
“I tell them it’s the community. We have tapped into the spirit of rallying around those in our community who have fought and are fighting this battle. It’s about the shirts but at the same time it’s not. The shirts are just symbolic of something bigger that is going on in Polk County and our country. People are tired of hearing the same old news about another loved one, friend or acquaintance hearing those three words – You have cancer – people are fighting back and showing their support. These shirts are a way for people to tell everyone – Look, I’m fighting cancer, every time I wear this shirt, I’m raising awareness.”
The sales were spurred by a Nov. 25 Polk County Enterprise story of The Believers efforts to get a “Believe” shirt into the hands of ABC “Good Morning America” co-hosts Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer.
Not only did several team members succeed in delivering the shirts in person during a recent trip to New York, but Robin Roberts – who is currently battling breast cancer – wore her new shirt to chemotherapy the same day.
The shirts have become symbolic of Relay For Life in Polk County and participants from relay events around the country have purchased the shirts by mail, e-mail and at a recent Relay For Life Regional Summit.
When the purchasers get back to their local events and wear their new “Believe” shirts a new wave of orders follows.
The shirt sales were responsible for making Ogletree’s team the top fundraising team not just in Polk County but in the entire East Texas Region.
Ogletree encourages everyone to keep their eyes and ears open for new and exciting Believe shirts in the months to come.
“We have all sorts of ideas for year round holiday themes, team-oriented fundraisers and new designs,” said Ogletree
“Old Navy puts out $10 shirts for every holiday. We can do that too and you don’t have to go out of town to buy one and the money helps our loved ones and neighbors,” says Ogletree with a gleam of hope in her eye.
The deadline for ordering shirts with delivery before Christmas is Dec. 14.
Anyone interested in purchasing a Believe shirt may contact their favorite Relay For Life team or the Polk County Enterprise at 327-4357.
More information about Relay For Life in Polk County and online donations can be found online at www.polkcountyrelay.org.