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Celebrity Waiters dinner christens Clayton Center with record-breaking night

“Iron Chefs” posing during the second annual Relay for Life Celebrity Waiters event are, from left, Rick Shepard, Kevin Proffitt, State Sen. Doug Overbey and David Dwyer.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

“Iron Chefs” posing during the second annual Relay for Life Celebrity Waiters event are, from left, Rick Shepard, Kevin Proffitt, State Sen. Doug Overbey and David Dwyer.

Planners for the second annual Blount County Relay for Life Celebrity Waiters event had a goal of raising $25,000 for cancer research during the gala on Saturday, Feb. 27. They surpassed it by more than $15,000.

“Blount County is an awesome county,” said Linda Whitehead, 2010 Relay for Life event chair. “They are really wonderful about coming together with events and raising money.”

Whitehead said most everyone has been touched by cancer in some form and that people want to be a part of cancer research and education. “We learned that by the participation in the event. Our goal was $25,000, and we raised $40,500,” she said. “We also felt everyone had a wonderful time. We raised the money and also had a grand and wonderful evening in a wonderful venue.”

The Celebrity Waiter dinner was held at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus, the first catered event in the facility’s grand foyer. Official opening is March 25-28.

Marion Westerling, executive director of the American Cancer Society in Blount County, said organizers and volunteers were excited to be the first big gala event at the Clayton Center. “I know a lot of people who were very excited to be part of this so they could see the Clayton Center as well,” she said.

Westerling said one of the benefits of Celebrity Waiters is that it touches people who may not normally be involved with Relay. “It helps us get the message out to those we may not otherwise reach. Celebrity Waiters was such a fantastic event this year, and it would not have been possible without the hard work of a lot of volunteers,” she said. “The volunteers are who made it successful.”

Whitehead said there were two winners in the event - a per capita winner and an overall money raised winner.

“Jerry and Janis Cunningham’s table won on a per capita level as a table. They had one table with eight people,” Whitehead said. “We determined per capita as to how much was raised per person on average per table. They raised $405 per person!”

“The winner for total amount raised was the table of Joy Bishop and Brenda Sellers. They raised $6,750,” Whitehead said.

The totals in terms of money raised and number of people in attendance jumped from last year. “Last year we raised $16,000, and we had about 130 people. This year we had 200 people and raised $40,500,” Whitehead said. “We just appreciate all the volunteers and their long hours, and everyone coming to participate. We especially appreciate the waiters for making this a wonderful event and inviting the people to come and enjoy the evening.”

Westerling said the Blount County Relay for Life’s goal this year is $365,000. The event will be held at the Maryville College campus on May 21. “We raised $333,000 last year. We knew we were going to be doing several special events to help with the additional fundraising and really felt positive that the economy was getting better,” Westerling said. “We are still recruiting new teams and already have over 20 new teams.”

Whitehead before the event was over Saturday night, people were already asking to be waiters next year. “So we have a waiting list, which is really neat,” she said.

Westerling said organizers are already planning next year’s Celebrity Waiters event, and they will announce a date very soon.

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