Survivors, sufferers find support at Bourbon County Relay for Life

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Jason Silvers/Tribune Photo Director of pastoral services at Mercy Health Center and cancer survivor William Schafer, accompanied by his wife, Frances (left) and daughter, Patricia (right), partakes in the Bourbon County Relay for Life Friday night at Frary Field in Fort Scott.

The Bourbon County Relay for Life organization has scored another point in their ongoing quest to find a cure for cancer.

The group's 2008 "Sportin' a Cure" seven-month campaign, which began last fall and concluded this past weekend with the annual all-night relay walk, netted more than $53,000 through fundraisers and community donations this past year, Relay for Life co-chairwoman Lavetta Simmons said Monday.

"I'd say at least $53,000, but these are early numbers and all concessions (sales) haven't been turned in yet," Simmons said.

More than 500 local residents, who made up 42 registered teams, participated in Relay for Life activities this year in an effort to raise $75,000 for the American Cancer Society and its services. About 1,000 people turned out on Friday and Saturday to participate in the relay walk around the track at Frary Field, or watch the event from the bleachers at the football stadium, Simmons said.

The organization raised about $8,500 through the sale of luminaries -- small paper bags that contain candles and feature the names of cancer survivors, victims and caregivers -- and about $13,000 through corporate sponsorship from several local businesses. The remainder of the collected funds came through local donations, organization membership fees, and other Relay for Life-sponsored fundraisers, co-chairwoman Kristie Maycumber said.

Maycumber said the weekend event went well, and that more people in recent years have recognized the hard work that Relay for Life members put into organizing and conducting the annual event, and the worthwhile cause the group is fighting for -- to find a cure for the deadly disease that strikes millions of people each year.

"Nowadays, whenever I walk around town, people see you and they always know who you are and what you're about," Maycumber said.

The all-night Relay for Life event also featured a number of other activities, including live entertainment, a concession stand, and a few guest speakers, including local cancer survivor William James Schafer, who talked about his experiences battling throat cancer. Boban Mathew, a hematologist and oncologist from Pittsburg, led a lap around the track to honor local cancer survivors, which kicked off the event on Friday.

Teams also participated in a silent lap around the track to honor local cancer patients, survivors, victims and caregivers during a luminary ceremony Friday evening. A special poem recognizing those people was also read during the ceremony, Maycumber said. The luminaries are lit up and lined around the track on the evening of the relay walk.

The Bourbon County Relay for Life organization raised about $64,000 through its 2007 campaign, and more than $57,000 during its 2006 campaign. The ACS is a nationwide organization that works to prevent and eliminate cancer through research, education, advocacy, and other services.