Local celebrity waiters entertained and served customers at the Capitol Theater Saturday night, all in the name of cancer research.
The first-ever celebrity waiters event to benefit Relay for Life generated more than $16,000, raised awareness about the need for cancer research and was just a fun time for everyone involved, Relay for Life chair Dave Bennett said.
“It was a resounding success. It was incredible, thanks to volunteers. Tim Self headed that up,” Bennett, who is Blount County assistant mayor, said. “It was a great night, and we raised a lot of money for cancer research and cancer awareness. We raised in excess of $16,000. It was awesome.”
Bennett said organizers are already having team meetings on the last Monday of every month at Maryville College Fayerweather Hall for the county-wide Relay for Life event, which will be May 29.
“We’re basically getting organized. The relay event will be May 29 so we’re inviting people who want to have team or who haven’t been involved in the past to come learn and be a part of it,” Bennett said. “I dare say there’s nobody who has not been touched by cancer. Our ultimate goal is we want to raise money for research so nobody ever has to hear the words, ‘You have cancer.’”
Bennett said his wife’s family has dealt with cancer. “I’ve got dear friends who continue to battle cancer and friends who have lost their battles with cancer, and I’ve seen it up close and personal. It’s a terrible, terrible disease,” he said.
Bennett said those who take care of cancer patients also deal with much. “The caregivers are the unsung heroes for those who have cancer,” he said.
The fundraising chairman said cancer impacts everyone’s medical costs. “Anything we can do to cure it through research is important. That is where these dollars go,” he said.
Bennett said the theme for Relay for Life is “Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back.”
Participants celebrate those who have fought cancer and beaten it or who are continuing to fight it, they remember those who have lost their battle with cancer, and they fight back by raising money and awareness.
Bennett has served on many community committees and campaigns, including campaign chair for United Way, but that chairing the Relay committee is different. “It’s a lot more personal. What I’m finding is that the folks involved really take this fight personally. They’ve been touched by cancer, either folks have had cancer and are defeating it or know someone who has died from it or they have family or friends fighting it and they are getting involved to support those friends and loved ones.”
The fundraising chairman said Blount County residents come together as a family to participate in the Relay. “There will be thousands of people on the campus of Maryville College during Relay with the goal of raising money to go to research that will one day defeat cancer,” he said.
Bennett said Relay for Life needs team members and teams for the event. “If there are folks who have never been involved and would like to get involved, they can call me or Pat James at 865-273-5702. We’ll get them information about how to become involved,” he said. “All they have to do is come once, and they’ll be a part of it the rest of their life. It’s an amazing night.”
The Celebrity Waiter fundraiser got participants into the spirit of the event with food, music and celebrations. Survivors at different tables told of their experiences and engaged in friendly competition to see which of the tables could raise the most money. There were challenges and stunts presented to get more “tips” for each waiter’s tables, with all the money going to Relay.
The Streamliners played for the event and swing dancing was part of the evening’s entertainment, along with a Relay for Life video that raised awareness of the disease. Area restaurants donated the food for the evening.