By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
Months of planning, capped off by a 15-hour event, netted more than $27,000 towards cancer research at this weekend’s Relay for Life.
The event, which ran from 6 p.m. Friday night to 9 a.m. Saturday morning at Greyhound Arena, featured an estimated 700 participants who fund-raised and walked on a circular walking path in the arena.
“This is a time to celebrate those who have won the battle (against cancer), and remember those who have lost,” event emcee Don Thomas said.
Survivors, identified by purple Relay for Life shirts, opened the event by walking the first lap. They were followed by 27 teams, with members wearing white shirts supplied by event organizers.
Part of the event was also set aside to remember those who lost their lives to cancer. Cancer survivor Kevin Gardels played music during the luminaria ceremony, where candles in white bags were lit in remembrance. A section was lit to spell out the word, “Hope,” as the lights in the arena were dimmed.
Thomas said that the Relay for Life was important because of the advances cancer research has made, noting that Gardels might not have survived cancer without a new form of treatment that was discovered through research.
Thomas added that Gardels received a bone marrow transplant, and the doctor who performed the operation was coincidentally named Don Thomas.
The fund-raising done for future cancer research came from two sources, Thomas said — a silent auction ($3,843.55) and donations from the teams ($23,822.23) for a total of $27,665.78.
Event organizers predict that the final total could be 10 percent to 20 percent higher, which could push the amount above $30,000.
“We have team captains that haven’t turned in (funds) yet,” said Relay For Life county chair Mandi Park. Park said that the Portales Junior High team, for example, had to pull out of participation due to a track meet on Saturday and its contribution is not factored in at this point.
Dorothy Nelson, the American Cancer Society’s community relations manager for southeastern New Mexico, said that $8,000 in funds poured in the Monday following a previous Relay for Life in Clovis.
Barring extra money that goes well beyond what Nelson described, the money raised for 2005 will fall well below the $50,000 goal set by the board. The total is more than the 2003 event’s total ($14,000) and less than the 2002 event ($38,000).
There was no Relay for Life in Roosevelt County last year.