“... We were fourth in the whole state of Tennessee,” said Angela Mathis, senior community representative with the American Cancer Society. “We beat Blount County, which is a big deal for us. We would like to stay in the top five [counties] from here on out. We want to be No 1.”
A total of $252,000 was raised last year by Bradley County Relay for Life teams. These teams are made up of family members, cancer survivors, generous individuals, and Bradley County-based corporations. All raised funds will go toward the American Cancer Society’s fight against all types of cancers.
Next year’s goal is set at $260,000. Funds will be raised through individual, team, and organizational efforts. An individual effort would be like the BCRL member who wove baskets and sold them weekly. Organizational efforts consist of mass events like this December’s 5K Reindeer Run.
Mathis said every little — and large — bit helps. Teams were given recognition from the rising star level through emerald. The level achieved by a team correlates with how much money it raised. These levels include: rising star ($1,000-$2,499), Bronze level ($2,500-$3,499), Silver level ($3,00-$4,999), Gold level ($5,000-$7,4999), Platinum level ($10,000-$14,999), Sapphire level ($15,000-$24,999), and Emerald level ($25,000-$49,999).
Eaton Corporation in Cleveland raised the most money to achieve emerald level.
“I want to thank every one of you in this room. No one can do this alone,” Mathis said. “This is definitely a community that picks up the fight and every dollar makes a difference. So thank you, you guys.”
The top three individual members who raised the most money were recognized at the breakfast. First place went to DeeAun Leamon. Second and third were taken by Eaton employees Brendan Foley and Matt Hockman.
The two were engaged in a competition to see who could raise the most money. Foley managed to beat his friend and co-worker.
He also spoke to the assembled crowd about his own battle with cancer.
“A couple of years ago, I celebrated my year 30th year of being cancer-free. I had to do something a little bit different to mark such a monumental occasion,” Foley said. “At an all-employee meeting I said out loud I would walk all 24 hours. ... So I did it, and we raised some money.”
Foley said it was so painful he had to take the next year off. Last year, he and Hockman competed and ended up walking 20 miles together. This year, Foley said he will be walking all 24 hours for his sister, who is currently battling cervical cancer.
Tanya Brown, a Relay for Life member and cervical cancer survivor, spoke after Foley.
“I am a cervical cancer survivor. One in five people survive. They put me in a room with seven people,” Brown said.
She asked her fellow roommates what their prognosis was. She wanted to know if they had hope. All seven of them told her they were waiting on God to be merciful and take them. Brown said she went flying out of that room.
“My aunt told me I had to go back in that room. And I told her, ‘Y’all people are crazy. Those people are dying and I am not. Why?’” Brown recalled. “My doctor looked me in the face and said, ‘Because God has work for you. He knows you are going to talk for each one of those seven people.’ And that is why I Relay. I don’t want another family to hear the word ‘cancer’ come out of the doctor’s mouth.”
Each one of the BCRL members has their own reason for participating in Relay For Life. According to their testimonies, they place their hearts into their fundraising and walking efforts.
Lisa Bishop, executive director of the American Cancer Society’s Chattanooga office, thanked BCRL and gave a couple of updates.
“You guys Relayed for Gardasil. If you have a teenage girl between the ages of 11 and 14 then have them get that,” Bishop said. “In 10 years, we are going to see a 70 percent reduction in cervical cancer because of Gardasil ...”
According to Bishop, real consideration has gone into changing the venue for Relay’s Walk for Life. There is some talk about moving the walk to a high school track. Bishop also said teams can now go out and get sponsors, and the money will go toward their team.
“Thank you so much for what you do. You are doing it for every patient who walk’s into [a doctor’s] office. Don’t stop. I Relay because I see the difference we are making as an organization,” Bishop said.
The breakfast was held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Fundraising has already begun for this year’s walk.