|by Sam King, Journal Review • March 13, 2007|
When the initial lap is taken for the March 23 Relay for Life at Wabash College’s Knowling Fieldhouse, there’s more to it than just a charity kickoff. Most everyone involved with the cancer research fund-raiser has been hit in one way or another personally by a cancerous disease.
Registration for this year’s local event, with the theme "Spring for a Cure," is 5-6 p.m. the day of, or by calling relay chair Ruthanna Williamson at 765-362-2437 or 765-376-4015. Laps will begin at 6 p.m. with the cancer survivors taking the opening lap. Teams then follow. For those struck by cancer themselves or those who have witnessed friends and family members go through it, it’s an emotional time.
Kim Johnson of Athens Medical Group still vividly remembers her mother, Kathy Carter, making her way around for the survivor lap just days after her chemo treatment. Carter is now spearheading a Montgomery County Relay for Life first — the Miss Relay pageant.
All teams are encouraged to enter the contest and there is no limit to the number of contestants per team, although all entries should be male. Each contestant will be introduced to the Relay crowd and should have a purse to collect Relay donations. The winner will be the one who receives the most donations. Those interested in entering can contact Carter at 362-4700.
Johnson’s also been on the opposite end of the spectrum, watching her grandfather fail in his fight against lung cancer. That’s helped lead to her participation in the event with her Athens team, which last year had the most participants of any team. The team has already begun building its army for 2007, compiling more than 30, with an expected 60-plus eventually joining the crew.
"It’s a very helpless feeling to not be able to do something to make them better," Johnson said. "This is one way I feel I can do something. Working in the medical field, all of our employees work with cancer patients everyday."
Another way to show support is by purchasing a pin wheel or a luminaria. Pin wheels are sold for a cancer survivor and a luminaria is in memory of someone. A $10 minimum donation is required for each. They can be purchased by sending payment to: Karla Vaught, Luminaria Chair, 93 N. Sugar Cliff Dr., Crawfordsville, IN 47933.
A luminaria lighting ceremony will be at 9 p.m. with the names of those honored inscribed on each bag.
"The Relay for Life is a showcase event for our community," said Jim Amidon, Wabash Director of Public Affairs, who is also a cancer survivor. "It brings together people from all walks of life, all of who are united in this goal of wiping out cancer."
Norvell’s BBQ and College Street Deli provide food and entertainment also takes place during the event. The Crawfordsville High School dance team will sell walking tacos. The team will also dance as part of the entertainment, along with singing from Wabash graduate Howard Bailey, Tina Steele, a duet by Stephanie Poole and Kelly Maxwell and music from the band Saharan Drench. Great Clips will also give free haircuts for a donation to the organization.
The 11th annual Montgomery County Relay continues to draw more because newcomers are struck with cancer and learn of the Relay. Until diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2000, Amidon didn’t know what Relay for Life was. He was invited to Parke County’s Relay event and is now actively involved in Crawfordsville. Like Amidon, other cancer survivors and patients learn they aren’t alone when seeing turnout for the event.
"People are there from age 2 to 90 who are cancer survivors, that’s a powerful statement that cancer can be beat," Amidon said.