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Relay event celebrates life and honors lost loved ones

Article Date: 
16 August, 2013 (All day)

At the annual Morgan Relay For Life event, residents come together to honor cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against a disease that has already taken too much. 
Relay teams camp out overnight and take turns walking around the Morgan High School track, because cancer never sleeps. Each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times, but the main purpose of the evening is not about walking.  
Relay brings a community together with one common goal: to help cancer patients celebrate more birthdays.  Each participant selflessly raises funds throughout the year in a huge volunteer effort that results in thousands of dollars for cancer research. According to recent research, one in five people will have some form of cancer.  This number makes it especially important for each of us to take an active role.
Tara Hammer, chair of the Morgan Relay for Life, welcomed everyone to the event.  As this was Hammer’s last year serving as Relay chair, her fellow committee members presented her with thank you gifts.  Amanda Campbell will be sharing the role of chair with Jennifer Vesper next year, but Hammer will continue to have an important place within the committee.
“Tara has been amazing in her role.  You could not ask for a more supportive, thoughtful and inspiring leader,” said Campbell.  
Nocoma Campbell was the opening speaker.  Nocoma shared her story of losing her best friend, her little brother.  Cason was only 5 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma.  He had tandem bone marrow transplants and was cancer-free for two years.  The cancer came back aggressively and Cason had to undergo a 15 hour surgery in San Fransisco.  When he returned home he went through several rounds of radiation, but the tumor came back and the Campbell family lost their amazing Cason at only 8 years old.  There was not a dry eye in the stadium.  This is the reason she is an avid participant and even with her busy high school schedule, assisted on the committee this year.
Staying with tradition, the first lap around the track was walked by those who have battled cancer as well as their caregivers.  The survivor lap is absolutely inspiring.  Seeing these grandparents, parents and even children take these victorious steps around the track with their caregivers is an emotional scene.  Some have won their battle, some are still fighting, but everyone is there celebrating their victories together. 
Because the event is called Relay for Life, a common misconception is that this is a race, but most years you won’t find anyone running.  This year was a little different.  One couple ran the track for a good portion of the evening.  This couple ran with their daughter and even purchased wings at one of the team campsites to wear while they ran.  It was great to see someone with such dedication.  
The Light for Life team brought bounce houses for their fundraising efforts. They also brought back an old tradition.  For a small donation, you could buy ribbons that held white and purple beads.  For each time around the track, participants would receive one white bead.  For every mile they would receive a purple bead.  Crystal Polson, walking for Team Buttercup, earned a total of 48 white beads and 16 purple.  She said, “I wanted to dedicate a mile to each of the people I was walking for.”  Polson accomplished that goal and then some.
Entertainment was held throughout the night with kids’ games, a candy cannon, live performances and karaoke.  A new addition to the fun this year was Fear Factor.  Some kids talked their parents into staying longer just to participate.  Kids and adults buried their faces in green spaghetti noodles with the surprise addition of real worms mixed in.  Participants had to retrieve a coin from the bottom of the bowl with their mouths.  Other events had them holding snakes blindfolded and eating kitty litter cake and sardines.  There were other food eating contests throughout the night as well.
Caregivers who have lost loved ones are not forgotten in this celebration of life.  After dark, stadium lights are turned down and a luminary ceremony is held.  The sense of kinship among those walking this lap is felt throughout the stadium.  There are many tears shed as participants see their loved ones’ names illuminated around the track.  Luminaria bags are also in the bleachers spelling out the word “CURE.”  
The committee would like to sincerely thank all of the sponsors for this year’s event.  There have been a lot of fundraisers this year and there were still many companies who gave generously. 
All the teams work incredibly hard all year long to raise their funds.  The committee appreciates every last individual who raises even a dollar.  Every participant is vital to the event’s success.  
At the end of the event the total amount raised was an incredible $37,000.  This year’s top team was the Browning team that brought in $8,353.  The Browning team sold turkey legs that night, always a big hit.  Marie’s Messengers of Hope came in second raising $6,929 and the third place team was TNT Dynamite with $6,450.  The TNT team sells trees and flowers before and during Relay and generously donates all the proceeds.  Thanks to the Morgan community they had great success this year. 
Ist Bank is always a big supporter of Relay and raised enough to come in fourth this year with a donation of $2,367.  Newcomers, Morgan Middle School, were new to Relay this year and raised an amazing $2,334 coming in just behind the bank.
The top individuals this year were Tara Hammer with $1,825, Jennifer Vesper with $1,260 and Debby Wilkinson with $863.