Fighting cancer is a team sport

Pep rally kicks off 2011 Relay for Life

People can always find a reason NOT to be excited.

Those individuals weren’t at Green Meadow Country Club Tuesday night, Oct. 26.

Volunteers gathered to kick off the 2011 Relay for Life and celebrate something they were excited about – fighting cancer by raising money.

“You can always find reasons to not be excited. The economy has been tough over the past year and folks have other concerns on their minds like jobs and interest rates,” 2011 event chair Debby Curtis said. “We’re fortunate to have a great group of volunteers who get out every year and put aside all other concerns they have and focus on what is important.”

Curtis said there have always been individual teams that compete with one another in fundraising.

“When it is all said and done, our theme is ‘We’re a team united in the fight against cancer,’” she said. “We’re focusing on more of the large, overall team approach and many of our activities and team rallies will use the theme of teamwork.”

Curtis said the kickoff was more like a pep rally and that’s how each of the volunteer/team meetings will be leading up the June 3-4 Relay for Life at Maryville College. “We’re using sports team themes. Everyone was dressed in jerseys and sports attire and we’ll encourage that and give them ‘Spirit points’ when they do so,” she said.

Spirit points were instituted as a way of allowing smaller teams to compete with the larger teams. “We have teams ranging in size from two people all the way up to 25 to 30 to 40 people and while we have awards for team’s raising the most money, we’re also giving them a format to compete where it is not based on dollars raised but on participation,” she said. “We’ll calculate the Spirit points and award recognition.”

One change for the 2011 Relay for Life is that it will not be a 24-hour event but will instead be an 18-hour Relay lasting from 6 p.m. June 3 to 12 p.m. June 4. In 2010, planners made the switch from a 12-hour Relay to a 24-hour event. “The teams have spoken and felt 24 hours was difficult,” she said. “It’s a community event so we listen to the teams. We will do an 18-hour event.”

Currently there are 23 teams in place and while there are usually about 100 teams who ultimately participate, Curtis said planners are hoping to have 125 teams. “I feel confident we’ll get that because we’re already at 23. A lot of teams won’t get registered until after the first of the year,” she said. “We’re way ahead of the game compared to where we normally are.”

Curtis said that what is important now with eight months to go before the event is that teams are already forming for Relay for Life and raising every dollar they can to fund cancer research and support services and advocacy. “Our teams are really pumped up and are ready to go. Teams are already fundraising, in fact some teams are already making deposits,” she said.

Curtis said Relay for Life is an event that reaches individuals from every walk of life in the community. “Everyday you look around and see someone touched by cancer, and as a community we come together to fight that fight and do it with one common goal so that people struggling in the battle with cancer know they’re not alone,” she said.

Curtis said that as a community, Relay for Life gives people the support they need to access and receive care. “Blount County has always been great at doing that. We know how to ‘Relay’ and Blount County is always in the top three Relay for Life events in the state,” she said. “Ours is larger than Knoxville or Nashville. Blount County knows what it is doing and I know we’re up for another successful year.”

The next team pep rally will be at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at Broadway United Methodist Church. Anyone who is interested in learning more about Relay, being part of a team or volunteering should email Curtis at dcurtis@caterussell.com or call 865-607-1261.

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