Relay for Life raises record $104,000 for cancer research
Relay for Life, a unique happy-sad event now in its eighth year in Harrison County, raised a record $104,000 for cancer research last weekend at the Corydon Central High School track and football field.
Dennis Thomas, in his third year as chair or co-chair, said the 18-hour Relay attracted almost 1,000 participants in one form or another, and 32 teams, not the most ever, raised the most money ever. Thomas’s co-chairs were Sarah Turpin and Doug Robson.
Each of the 32 teams had 10 to 12 members, and each took turns walking around the track Friday night and Saturday morning. They stopped doing laps only for special events: the triumphant Survivors Walk about 6 p.m. Friday, followed by the Caregivers Walk, and then, around 9 p.m., a Mental Attitude Award presentation, a talk by the Rev. Greg Carter at 9 p.m., and the dramatic reading of the names of survivors plus those who had lost their fight to cancer.
About 1,000 luminaria bore the names of cancer patients and illuminated the outline of the track. The word ‘HOPE’ shone brightly in the distance, in the grandstand on the visitors’ side of the football field. Girl Scouts had lit the candles.
It was a night of celebration and sadness, a night of seriousness and silliness, a carnival and a wake, a time of heightened sensitivity reserved for those who have endured the horrors of cancer and remembering those whose trials are over. Just about everyone there has at least one story to tell.
There’s four-year-old Joseph Young, son of Tony and Sheila Young of Corydon, who has lost 50 percent of his hearing due to chemotherapy but who is alive and doing well following liver cancer.
There’s Susan Goldman, 49, from Depauw, who has had a double mastectomy, and then three weeks ago had a cancerous tumor removed from her brain. Even more recently, a tumor was discovered in her neck. Susan, a Relay committee member, was the guest speaker last year. Susan’s sister-in-law, Betty Goldman, was the Relay speaker a few years ago before she succumbed to cancer.
This is the fifth year Thomas has taken part in the Relay. Eight members of his family have had cancer, and he knows many more who are fighting it now, including Jennifer Smith, 32, of Palmyra, a good friend who had breast cancer four years ago and is now being treated for liver cancer. Thomas gave Smith the Mental Attitude Award for her support of other cancer patients. He also gave her a long hug. This was the first time the Mental Attitude Award has been given.
Greg Carter, 53, pastor of Grace Tabernacle Assembly of God near Elizabeth, was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1987 at age 34. But nine years ago, he was given a ‘death sentence’ when the cancer reappeared. He described his never-say-die battle against bladder and prostate cancer (detailed in a book that he gave out Friday night).
His first role as encourager came early in his battle when an oncologist in Indianapolis asked him if he would talk to a nurse who had just been given some bad news and was terrified. Because Carter was a survivor, he could give her hope. Carter hasn’t stopped preachng that message since. He described it like this: ‘My mess has become my message; my misery has become my ministry.’
He encouraged all cancer patients there to get out and be ‘an anchor of hope for others because they desperately need you. Folks just need to see someone who has survived. Just your presence encourages them to survive.’
Carter introduced Ashley Fancher, 15, a North Harrison High School sophomore whose promising basketball and volleyball careers were ended last year when her right knee and 10 inches of her femur were removed because of osteosarcoma. She survived ‘a year of hell’ with chemo treatments and hospitalization. She now has a titanium knee and rod in her leg. She wants to start a foundation at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis to raise money to decorate children’s hospital rooms like home, provide activities for them, and raise money for childhood cancer research.
She is the first teenager to win the I.U. Cancer Center Torchbearer Award at Riley, given each year to a doctor, nurse or patient who leads the way through service to others or fund-raising.
Ashley told the hushed audience that she has learned that you can’t take life for granted, but she doesn’t want to have any regrets. She plans to live one day at a time. Her mother said Monday that ‘her story is not over.’ She has taken up golf. Her parents are Shirley and Marvin Longacre of Palmyra and Chris Fancher of Marengo.
Sue Wenning raised the most money by an individual this year, $7,200. Last year she raised $5,300.
First Harrison Bank is the organization that raised the most money, $21,000, a new record, through roadblocks, a car show, yard sales, cut-a-thon and silent auction.
The best all-around team was Davis Drugs, which had a camp site, dunk tank, and took part in all the ‘theme laps’ (clowning around, Elvis Lookalike, ’70s, favorite band, Patriotic, etc.). Davis Drugs also raised $6,600.
Edmund F. Schneider of Corydon, 81, told 10 years ago that he had ‘inoperable’ stomach cancer, led the Surviviors Lap as he has for the past three or four years.
The 110-item Relay auction raised $5,326. A Texas Tech basketball donated by Keith and Jenny Pinaire and signed by Bob Knight brought the highest bid, $825, by Karen Dones of Georgetown.
The men of the Moose Lodge in Corydon barbecued 1,400 chicken halves Friday, donated by Tyson Foods. The Carl Uesseler Chicken Dinner Friday night raised about $4,500, and all the walkers were treated to a free chicken dinner.