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Relay for Life teams raise $91K for cancer research

Despite the pouring rain and cold temperatures Friday night, supporters of Franklin County’s American Cancer Society Relay For Life were still able to hold their event thanks to the Russellville City Schools.

The event, which has traditionally been held at the RHS Stadium every year, was moved indoors to the RMS gymnasium after weather forecasts revealed there would be too much rain to continue with outdoor plans.

Belinda Johnson, Franklin County Relay For Life committee chairperson, said even though the event had to be scaled back to be able to hold it indoors, it still went over very well.

“In all our years of holding this event, this was the first time that Franklin County has had an indoor Relay For Life,” Johnson said.

“We were concerned about the survivor walk and luminaria ceremonies because we always want it to be special for everyone, but I felt that for our first time having to move it indoors, it was a success.

“We were very grateful to the Russellville Middle School for letting us come into their gym and have our event.”

All the night’s events and entertainment went on as scheduled with the Survivors’ and Caregivers’ Laps, the Luminaria Ceremony, performances by Rewind and the RHS Show Choir, an upbeat Zumba class from Curves and the Relay Idol competition, won by Cheyenne Smith.

As usual, Johnson said the Survivor’s Lap and the Luminaria Ceremony were special times of celebration and remembrance for those who have battled cancer or who have a loved one who has battled cancer.

“The introduction of the survivors and the survivor walk were definitely highlights of the evening,” she said.

“That is always so emotional for the survivors to see the crowd clapping and celebrating their survivorship. And of course the Luminaria Ceremony was beautiful, especially the view from the upstairs walking track in the gym.”

And despite the change of plans, Johnson said they still had a good crowd.

“I heard a lot of people in the community assumed the event was cancelled due to the weather, but we still had a good crowd,” she said.

“Overall, I was very pleased with Relay this year. We had several teams in the community drop out of Relay this past year, but I thought the remaining teams did a great job.”

The total amount of money raised for this year’s Relay For Life came out to $91,000, which was still about $44,000 shy of the committee’s goal for 2013, but Johnson said it wasn’t too late for people to still make a contribution to help Franklin County reach their goal.

“We have until August to turn in additional money,” she said.

“If anyone would like to donate, they can send a check to the American Cancer Society office in Florence and indicate it to go to Franklin County Relay, they can go online and donate to one of the teams in Franklin County or an individual, or they can bring the money to me at Russellville Hospital.”

Awards were also given to several teams and individuals for their accomplishments including: Top corporate fundraiser -Russellville Hospital; Top fundraising team – St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church; Top individual fundraiser – Milton Brown; Volunteer of the Year – Kellie Singleton; and the Jimmy Fleming Spirit of Relay Award – Milton Brown.

“The Jimmy Fleming Award being presented by Jimmy Fleming’s family to Milton Brown was a heartwarming highlight,” Johnson said.

“Both the late Jimmy Fleming and Milton Brown have a great passion for participation in Relay and helping others.”

Johnson said now that the event is over, they would soon begin planning for next year’s event.

“It is amazing every year to see the caring, compassionate people of Franklin County coming out to support each other and help us in this important fight against cancer,” she said.

“I want to personally thank everyone for making this a successful event every year and we look forward to another great Relay next year.”