A year ago, the Montgomery County Relay for Life was pushed indoors at Wabash College because of unrelenting July thunderstorms. Still, nearly 600 people of all ages turned out for our six-hour Relay that raised a Montgomery County-record of just over $60,000.
Regular readers of this column may recall how excited I was, as a cancer survivor and Relay for Life committee member, that my college was able to get more involved in the annual fund-raiser for our local chapter of the American Cancer Society.
So when organizer Ruthanna Williamson inquired about moving the event to Wabash permanently, I was positively ecstatic thinking about the possibilities that Knowling Fieldhouse provides.
Moving the event from July to April was deliberate; we wanted to get more school groups and Wabash students involved. And, we wanted to walk 12 hours through the night.
Friday’s Ninth Annual Relay for Life has come and gone, and I think I speak on behalf of all of the volunteers involved when I say it was our biggest and best Relay ever!
Not everybody made it the entire night. In fact, only about 30 hearty souls walked in Relay fashion for the entire 12 hours. But that in no way diminishes what was one of the most memorable community building events with which I’ve ever been involved.
Big thanks go out to Wabash’s Campus Services. The set-up guys and custodians went out of their way to insure that the event would come off without a hitch. Brent Harris, sports information director, had never been involved with the Relay for Life. That didn’t deter him from working most of the day Friday and all of the night to make sure we had all the technology and sound we needed.
Local businesses donated hundreds of dollars worth of drinks and food for the Relay walkers. Businesses donated many hundreds of dollars in merchandise used for give-aways for cancer survivors and for the silent auction.
The logistics involved with organizing and planning an event so large are an important part of the work that goes on.
But it’s the heart of this community that really touched me on Friday.
Changes in venue, timing, and length of the Relay did not slow Montgomery County one single bit. Teams organized, raised funds, recruited members, and threw enormous amounts of time and creativity in making this Relay for Life the best yet.
I think about the team from Random House Publishing, who not only raised some big-time cash, but also brought over cases and cases of children’s books to give away. And the Athens Medical Group, with nearly 70 blue-clad team members, made quite a statement.
Annette Hitch and the gang from Pace Dairy Foods, as usual, took top honors in creativity (with a nod to Random House’s Cat-in the-Hat tails). Once again, Pace brought out a huge team and partnered with Rotten Robby’s bikes to carry out a bicycle theme.
Wabash men were also a part of the Relay for the first time. The guys in the Beta Theta Pi fraternity handed Ruthanna a check for $1500, a sum that may continue to grow as they sell "Wabash Always" wristbands and partner with Applebee’s on a fund-raiser this week.
The men from Alpha Phi Omega had hoped to stretch quarters all the way around the track. They didn’t reach their goal, but they were there, at the end of the Relay, spreading out the quarters they had raised to fight cancer in our community.
And on a very personal note, I was most touched by an act of kindness from my daughter, Samantha. She was on her way to the Relay at about 3:30 on Friday when she suddenly realized she had no money to donate to the cause. She rushed to the garage and found a Relay for Life sign from last year. She taped a sign beneath it that said: "F-I-H-T Cancer: Kool-aid 25 cents a cup."
Two hours later, she brought her locked-up bank with $17.53 worth of Kool-aid money and proudly turned in all those pennies, nickels, and dimes. (She also brought another sign and a stack of granola bars to sell at the Relay.)
The Relay for Life really is an amazing event. It takes a disease that kills hundreds of people every year in this county, lifts it up, and kicks it in the face. It shouts loudly that together, we can make a difference; together we can beat cancer.
Amidon is Wabash College's Director of Public Affairs. He writes a weekly column for the Crawfordsville Journal Review. This column appeared in April 18 editions.
On homepage: Members of Beta Theta Pi present Relay chairman Ruthanna Williamson a check for $1,500.
Above right: The teams start their long Relay walk.
On left: A balloon release marked the start of the walk.
Center right: Survivors a big part of annual fund-raiser.
Bottom right: Sam's homemade sign.