That was evident at Thursday morning’s Relay for Life Kickoff Breakfast at First United Methodist Church were Relay volunteers and ACS staff members gave emotional and inspirational comments on why they are involved.
“It’s not just the first weekend in May, it’s you in this room and why you volunteer your time and effort all year long,” said Janice Baker. “We began assisting 15 years ago,” said the Arch Chemicals employee about her Relay for Life team.
The 2012 Relay for Life is scheduled for May 4-5 in downtown Cleveland around the Bradley County Courthouse. Activities will begin at 9 p.m. on Friday and conclude Saturday at 10 p.m.
The goal for this year’s Relay for Life is $250,000 and the theme is “Holidays for Hope.” The Relay raised $225,000 a year ago, but hopes to top that total this year.
The deadline for signing up teams to participate is Nov. 11 and there is a $100 fee for each team. Cancer Society officials said 12 new teams have already registered.
Several volunteers said a few words at Thursday’s breakfast, about their individual experiences with cancer and the experiences of their loved ones and friends.
Baker continued her talk by saying one of her biggest thrills is watching the cancer survivors take their laps around the courthouse. “It’s also about the children and their collections of nickels and dimes — and their giggles and laughter,” she said.
She said her company’s participation in Relay for Life had been a huge corporate advantage. “It’s the unity, the strength of family, improving company morale and the opportunity to be a good corporate citizen,” she said. She said it has also been enjoyable working with Arch Chemicals’ BEST Partner, the Walker Valley High School students.
Baker’s grandmother battled breast cancer and her dad had colon cancer. She said her mother was diagnosed with lymphoma when she was 62. “I’m now her age, and she’s been cancer-free for 25 years,” Baker said.
“We Relay because we’re passionate about finding a cancer cure,” Baker continued. “We believe that the next dollar could be the one where researchers and scientists find a cure. We believe we will find a cure.”
Kimberly Smith, an American Cancer Society staff member, said it is impressive to look at all the things Bradley County has done.
“More than 5,000 communities across the country participate in Relay for Life,” Smith said. “Bradley County began its Relay for Life 18 years ago and has raised more than $2 million for cancer research.
Smith said she attended a Cancer Summit in Birmingham, Ala., and the one statistic which most impressed her was cancer deaths avoided. “This trend started with the start of Relay,” she emphasized. “These statistics show how many lives we’ve saved with our research, and this trend reflects all the cancer survivors in this room.”
“Bradley County has made a difference with that one step it took 18 years ago,” Smith said in conclusion.
Bruce Bradford spoke of his five bouts with cancer, which began with colon cancer. He then had two tumors removed, with a session of lung cancer and a return fight with colon cancer.
“I’m now a five-time cancer survivor,” Bradford said with pride, assuring those at the breakfast that cancer can be beaten. “The American Cancer Society’s research (to save lives) is made possible by the dollars you raise,” he said.
Nancy Ragland gave an emotional talk about her family’s experience with cancer, the reason she and her children became involved in Relay for Life.
She said her aunt had breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy. “She went through it by herself and never told us,” Ragland said. “A year after her treatment, she called and asked me to walk with her in the Relay. My children and I have been involved with the Relay ever since.”
Later, Ragland’s sister also got breast cancer and battled the sickness on her own. “She finally allowed us to form a Relay team in her honor. That team is called “Surviving With Sheila,” the volunteer said.
“I’m happy with what I do for Relay,” Ragland continued. “We all do it for the same reason, for our kinfolk who have had cancer. We’re working for a cure.”
Shelli Cody, an American Cancer Society “Hero of Hope,” talked about her experiences and her selection to appear in an ACS video. The title of the video is “Why we Relay all night long.”
“It’s very informative,” said Cody. “It begins when the sun is setting,” a relation to the first time you’re told you have cancer. “When you walk (in the Relay), you get tired, much like when you get tired and sick when you’re taking your treatment. When the sun rises, it’s a sign of the renewal of life.”
Cancer Society officials presented team awards for 2011. Awards are based on each team’s level of funds, with Life Care Centers of America raising more than $23,000 for a sapphire award ($15,000 to $24,999). Arch Chemicals also received a sapphire award.
Other awards include jade ($10,000 to $14,999), platinum ($7,500 to $9,999), gold ($5,000 to $7,499), silver ($3,500 to $4,999), bronze ($2,500 to $3,499) and rising star ($1,000 to $2,499).
Award winners included: Sapphire — Life Care Centers of America, Arch Chemicals. Bronze — BI-LO, Bradley wrestling, Cleveland Regional Cancer Center, Cope, Surviving With Sheila, and Walmart South. Gold — Cleveland Utilities, Clingan Ridge, First Baptist, Flowers Bakery, Oak Grove, River County Realtors. Jade — Southern Heritage Bank. Platinum — Walmart North, Cleveland City Schools, Eaton, Olin, Peyton’s. Rising Star — Amedysis, Bank of Cleveland, Title Bucks, Waterville Baptist, Whirlpool, South Polk County Elementary School, Cleveland-Bradley Teachers’ Credit Union, Dr. Forrester, Farm Bureau, Local 899, M&M Mars, SkyRidge Medical Center, Tennessee Valley Urology, West Cleveland.
Silver — Excellence of Hope, Exel, Blue Ridge Oncology, Guardian Home Health and Team Relentless.