In terms of dollars brought in, the Calhoun County Relay for Life is the third largest relay fundraiser in the state, after Huntsville and Decatur, according to Scarlet Thompson, area director for the American Cancer Society. Thompson said before the event began at 6 p.m. $250,000 had been donated; as the midnight hour approached that figure swelled to $347,000, reflecting for the most part actual donations, not pledges.
The ACS anticipated 10,000 people would attend this year’s event, which was scheduled to wrap up at 6 o’clock this morning on the soccer fields at McClellan.
“It just shows what kind of community this is. How generous everyone is and just how cancer affects everyone,” Thompson said.
Money raised from the event supports cancer research and programs to help those battling the disease. The Relay for Life fundraising season ends Aug. 31, so if teams want to carry out additional fundraising, the effort will count in this campaign, Thompson said.
Thompson said working for the American Cancer Society has become more personal after she lost her mother to melanoma cancer three years ago. Relay for Life, she said, is “always a good time to think about it and be around other people who understand.”
A team sponsored by Alabama Specialty Products, a 250-employee materials processing firm in Munford, joined the Relay for Life to remember three co-workers.
“Our company as a whole has really been affected by cancer,” Sherri Carter said.
The team sold cookbooks, raffle tickets, quilts and put people in a fake jail which required a $3 donation for bail and had raised more than $5,200 for the cause.
Tiki torches and white paper bags were illuminated by family and friends to honor loved ones who have survived cancer or remember those who lost their fight.
For Janet Whitmore just attending the Relay for Life was a blessing. Whitmore was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 30 years old and breast cancer when she was 39. Now Whitmore is getting ready to celebrate her 52nd birthday as a cancer survivor.
“I love life and I’m just glad to be here,” Whitmore said.
Whitmore is the mother of two children and is looking forward to the birth of her second grandchild.
She works as a coordinator for the Jacksonville State University honors program and was thrilled when her students approached her about coordinating a relay team. The team raised over $6,000 in Whitmore’s honor.
Kay Martin, Calhoun County Relay for Life entertainment chair, became involved in the event after her best friend died at age 47 of lung cancer.
“I decided I wanted to find out what this stuff was that was killing the people I love,” Martin said. “So this is my mission.”
Martin has been part of organizing Relay for Life in Calhoun County for the last eight years.
“It’s important to me so that maybe my grandchildren or my great-grandchildren won’t have to hear ‘we don’t have a cure,’” Martin said.
Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.