Archive for Thursday, June 16, 2005

Enthusiasm key to Relay’s future

June 16, 2005

When my 11-year-old daughter first asked me two years ago if she could be a team captain on a Eudora Relay For Life team, I told her to wait until she was older.

I knew how much work went into being a team captain because I have been involved in the Relay's organization committee since Eudora branched off from the Douglas County Relay event eight years ago. I was a team captain all but one of those years. I didn't think a 9-year-old would be ready for that. There is a lot of planning and organization involved.

She asked me last year as well and finally, this year, I gave in. I told her I would give up my team captain role and let her take it over. She did just that -- and then some.

Someone asked me what drove her to become so involved. Many relatives and friends in our large family have been affected by cancer. We have lost many to the horrible disease, yet we have many that are survivors. Many others can relate to the same stories in their lives.

One of my daughter's goals in life is to someday find a cure. Quite a goal for an 11-year-old. Maybe someday she will do just that.

That's why it was so important for her to have a team. She already had a team name and campsite theme picked out. She knew who she wanted on her team and she knew who she was going to ask to be her co-captain.

She and I bought some initial "insect" decorations for the campsite and a team meeting and I drove her around to make luminaria bag deliveries, but other than that, she and her team did most of the work.

A team meeting was called so the other 10 members could see the ideas up to that point, get their packets and discuss the items for the silent auction the night of the event. She also encouraged the others to raise as much as they could because a prize would be given to the top three members who raised the most for their team. What enthusiasm.

The "Cancer Really Bugs Us" team planned a car wash in April and a hat day on the last day of school. They took responsibility of gaining permission for both and were successful in adding more than $300 to their team total. It was great to see such teamwork.

It was also an inspiration to see their enthusiasm for such an important cause and their fresh, new ideas.

As the fund-raising began to wind down and luminaria names and money were due, it was obvious the team was going to do very well in their overall total. I know some struggled, but they came through. One member was also on another team, splitting her money between the two. She still raised above and beyond.

Unfortunately, because of the weather, the plans for the night of the Relay did not transpire the way anyone had hoped.

My daughter's team hand-decorated each of their luminaria bags, which numbered almost 200. Some were very creative. She and many of the others gave a personal touch to each of the bags for whom they were designated, so you can imagine it was quite a blow when the rain came in the early afternoon and ruined their hard work. None were salvageable.

I tried to explain that it was going to be safer to be inside once the lightning made its way to Eudora, and that we could still remember those for whom the bags were decorated, it just wouldn't be with lighted luminarias. It was still hard for them to imagine at the time since the sun was shining brightly as each of the luminarias was scooped up and removed from the track area.

However, the disappointment soon turned to excitement and laughter as the evening progressed at the middle school. The girls did a good job staying focused, for the most part, while the hundreds of names were read from the luminaria list. They later had fun keeping with the beat during many group dances and trying to answer trivia questions to win prizes. They also kept a close eye on the increasing amount their Kansas University/Eudora High School-themed basket was earning.

After the clock struck midnight, it was time to call it a night since we were borrowing the middle school for the evening.

I had given in to my daughter's pleas earlier in the day to let those from the team who wanted to spend the night at our house after the shortened evening. They wanted to try and make it a true all-night event, just like they would had they been able to stay at the track. There were a total of eight girls who stayed.

What an experience, especially since others in the household were supposed to play in a baseball tournament at 8 a.m. in Ottawa the next morning. Needless to say, the excited "bugs" had a hard time going to sleep. The last one drifted off at around 5:30 a.m. Luckily, the ball games were canceled and everyone got to grab a few more hours of sleep.

As a whole, the "Cancer Really Bugs Us" team raised more than $2,700 and should be very proud of what they accomplished. I know I am.

It's great to see youngsters getting involved in such a huge community event. My daughter's team wasn't the only one with youth involved. There were many others. These children are the future of the Relay. We need to help keep the enthusiasm alive so one day events such as our local Relay are unnecessary.

Until then, look out next year. My daughter already has a team name chosen and is ready to Relay.

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