By CHERIL VERNON
Despite the cold temperatures, 41 Relay for Life teams gathered as a community to fight back against cancer, while honoring cancer survivors and remembering those who have battled cancer during the 2013 Anderson County Relay for Life event Friday.
The 12-hour event kicked off at 7 p.m. Friday with opening ceremonies at Westwood Independent School District’s Panther Stadium, ending with a Fight Back ceremony at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Moneys raised from the event go the American Cancer Society.
“It was freezing, but we had fun. We raised $18,000 in just that night,” Anderson County Relay for Life Chair Jennifer Snyder said Monday.
The event’s opening ceremonies included handing out special medals to the cancer survivors, with the survivors taking the first lap around the track as the community and teams joined together to cheer them on, Snyder said.
“We had over 100 survivors who participated,” Snyder said.
Other special laps included one for survivors and their caregivers, one for the Relay for Life teams, one for the Armed Forces and veterans and a silent lap for the cities of Boston, Mass. and West, Texas — cities that have both faced tragedies recently.
At 9 p.m. Friday, a solemn luminaria ceremony was held — where cancer survivors and those who have passed away from cancer are remembered.
“We black out the stadium completely. It’s one of the most moving ceremonies you can imagine and it’s gorgeous with all of the little tea light candles lit around the track while the word ‘Hope’ is spelled out in candles in the bleachers,” Snyder said. “You see that there is hope for people fighting cancer.”
Snyder gave credit to the Relay for Life committee members who helped pull the annual event together.
“My committee is amazing, they are great at what they do. We couldn’t have done this event without the hard work of my committee,” Snyder said.
Snyder also credited the teams for going above and beyond before, during and after the Relay for Life event to raise funds to fight cancer.
“These are some of the best teams I have ever worked with,” Snyder said.
Making the Relay for Life possible were sponsors including: Texas Oncology, Palestine Regional Medical Center, Wilson Culverts, Walmart, City of Palestine, Oncor, KYYK, Palestine Herald-Press, Bacon Autoplex, Palestine Air & Heat, Staples & Associates CPA; and all of the businesses that donated items for the survivor bags.
“We want to thank our sponsors tremendously for all of their help,” Snyder said.
Walmart team member Black Garrett was crowned “Miss Relay for Life” during the Miss Relay competition, where a male member of a team dresses up as a woman and compete against others to raise funds for the event.
“Blake was the ‘Bahama Mama.’ He was voted Miss Relay for Life by our judges, which included two survivors and a participant,” Snyder said.
Other activities held during the night for the teams include a Zumba class led by instructor Laura Love, a midnight chocolate buffet, sack race, paddle ball, hula hoop contest and volleyball tournament; and several themed laps such as “Boots and Bras,” “Purple Out,” “Pajamas,” “Nerd,” “Famous Person” and “Favorite Sports Team.”
During the closing “Fight Back” ceremony about 35 people walked the last lap for the Relay for Life event.
“We held signs telling why we do Relay. It was interesting to read everyone’s sign to see what their reason was for being there and knowing they are there to help,” Snyder said.
Although Relay for Life’s annual event is over, the fund-raising continues. Relay for Life teams can raise money through Dec. 31 for the 2013 Relay for Life.
“We now go from January to December — starting off with a kick-off in January and holding our wrap-up in November,” Snyder said.
Relay for Life committee members are now gearing up for the next Relay for Life event — Ribs for Relay, which will start at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 8 in The Hollow in Old Town Palestine.
“We are taking only 20 teams and everything has to be done on a grill, charcoal or grill burning,” Snyder said.
Cost is $40 for ribs, $15 for desserts, $15 for beans and $10 for barbecue sauce.
For information about Ribs for Relay, call Snyder at 903-729-6882 or call Brittany Boyd at 903-545-2115.