Ready to relay

? Annual event raises almost $28,000 in the fight to end cancer.

This year?s 20th annual American Cancer Society?s Relay for Life of Marion County raised almost $28,000 Saturday in the fight to eliminate the dreaded disease.

To kick off the start of the Marion County Relay for Life celebration, several survivors were asked to walk the first lap, followed by survivors and caregivers on the second lap and everyone joining in for the third lap and the subsequent laps throughout the evening. Patty Decker / Free Press

According to Bryn Mecum, ACS staff partner, 12 teams and 142 people took part in the event at Warrior Stadium in Marion .

?We had over 1,000 luminaries with more money still being turned in,? Mecum said early Saturday evening.

She and other organizers said they were happy to have exceeded the goal.

Multiple purposes

Mecum said the primary purpose of Relay for Live is to raise money for the ACS to fund research, education, advocacy and patient services.

?It is also about a community taking up the fight,? she said. ?It is a celebration of life, which brings the community together in a unified effort to fight cancer.?

Assisting at this year?s event were youth from Marion Boy Scout Troop 102, who raised the national flag prior to the opening ceremonies.

In addition, Justin Terrell sang the ?Star-Spangled Banner? and Steve Janzen, the inspirational speaker, talking about his experiences fighting pancreatic cancer.

Margie Sandwell (left) and Mary Olson stand on either side of their team?s theme at the Relay for?Life in Marion. Sandwell said the theme was, ?Whoo Do You Relay For?? Olson said she made the sign for her team. Photos by Patty Decker / Free PressMargie Sandwell, team leader for the Surviving Angels and Helpers, earned $1,620 toward the fight against cancer. Her team, consisting of 17 members, collected a total of $6,348.

Sandwell, a 17-year cancer survivor, said she has been at nearly all the events. As proof of her continued commitment to the cause, Sandwell said she proudly wears the small buttons from each of the events.

?All of these little (buttons) remind me,? she said. ?I had colon cancer, which went into my liver, but I am in remission. After having a year of chemotherapy, I thought it would kill me, but it didn?t.?

Sandwell said her doctor at the time was Harry Hynes, but about a year after she completed her chemo?therapy, Hynes was diagnosed with leukemia.

In adding to their celebration of life, Sandwell?s team came up with a theme: ?Whoo Do You Relay For?? As part of the theme, one member walked the course as an owl, sewn by another teammate, Mary Olson, former mayor of Marion.

Other teams

Other teams at this year?s event included:

? Busy Bees with Debbie Connor, team leader, with 26 members, generating $2,626 in donations.

? Moore Hope with Luke Moore, team leader, and 11 members, generating $2,224.

? St. Luke Hospital with Joella Hett, team leader, and 14 members, generating $2,040.

? Burn?s Pacers with Loretta Snelling, team leader, and 11 members, receiving $1,731. Snelling had an individual total of $745.

? Women of Steel and Loretta Steel, team leader, and 11 members, receiving $801 in donations.

? Courthouse Cancer Kickers with Kerry Maag and six teammates receiving $790.

? Faith Walkers with Ruth Lange and eight members earning $655 in donations.

? Elcon Services, Brenda Bernhardt team leader, and seven teammates earning $550.

? ?Strike Outs,? with Kelley Schafers and four team members earning $466.

? American Cancer Society Shockers and Bryn Mecum and one other member contributing $60.

Bev Wilson had a high individual donation amount of $1,187.

For the first time in recent years, the event returned outdoors. For many people, it was a good thing.

?I love it back outside,? Sandwell said. ?For me, it has more meaning being outside.?

Saving the event

In 2013, the Marion County Relay for Life group nearly disbanded due to lack of participation, she said. But when a call went out for help, the community responded.

Volunteers felt the event was worth saving after learning that from 1997 through 2012 a total of $472,714 was raised.

The planning committee for the 2014 Relay For Life event included Cindy Griffitts and Karen Benda, co-chairs; Jeannine Bateman, accounting chair; Margie Sandwell, team recruitment chair; Loretta Snelling, team development chair; Kim Helmer and Joella Hett, sponsorship co-chairs; Joel Klaassen, online publicity chair; Mary Olson, luminaria chair and Mecum, ACS staff partner.

For more information about donating, or to learn more about helping with next year?s event, call 800-478-4788 or visit relayfor?life.org/marioncoks.

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