Archive for Thursday, June 16, 2005

Relay For Life walks on air

Relay For Life succeeds in spite of bad weather

June 16, 2005

When the rains came Friday, Eudora's eighth annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life didn't pack up and quit -- it moved.

The clusters of tents were put away and the ring of luminarias never had the chance to be lit, but the level of local support for the fight against cancer still burned strong. Eudora collected more than $32,000 this year to support research into the causes and, ultimately, cures for the disease.

With the rain, the Eudora Middle School gym took the place of Laws Field, and people packed into the bleachers for the ceremonies. Clowns, games and a bustling hallway full of vendors welcomed the attendees.

"Only one place to be, and that's here," Eudora resident Ruth Schneider said.

Schneider recently lost her husband to cancer, and her granddaughter, Amanda, sang later in the evening.

Money for the relay was raised both by local teams and through corporate sponsorship. This year 16 teams participated and more than 80 businesses and organizations gave monetary and gift-in-kind donations.

"We did really well considering we only had three months to put it together," Eudora resident and event chairwoman Ashley Olson said.

The teams came out in an array of costumes. This year's charity for cancer teams included a group of insects, a roving band of hippies and a group of peaceful poker players.

"I thought people were very creative coming up with themes and their costumes to go along with them," Olson said.

The annual event also had a serious side. More than 80 survivors gathered in purple shirts and sashes to support the fight against cancer and to be supported themselves.

The survivors had an opportunity to take a victory lap. Singly or in groups, those in purple shirts walked a lap around the gym floor. They began the journey by stepping through a tunnel of support created by event organizers who stood across from each other in two lines and lifted their arms to create a makeshift arch for them to walk beneath.

"It's my first time doing this and I think it's great," said Eudora resident and survivor Greg Bricker.

The event organizers treated the survivors to a dinner earlier in the evening, and gave them a gift pack and a rose for the lap.

Afterward, the teams had a chance to take a lap around the gym, while being serenaded by the Dixieland sounds of the Junkyard Jazz band.

After the victory laps, there was a break, and the crowd had a chance to visit the vendors which varied from concessions to crafts.

"I know that people really enjoyed the wrestling club barbecue. (The) St. Theresa's pies sold out, and I've been seeing the bracelets all over town," Olson said.

Once people were filled with pulled pork sandwiches provided by the Eudora Jr. Cardinals Wrestling Club, or the golden pies sold by members of the St. Theresa's Society at Holy Family Catholic Church, they were regaled to more performances by numerous local musicians.

After the songs faded, volunteers approached the microphone and read the 750 names that would have appeared on the luminarias had the rain not come.

Following the recitation of names, children of all ages danced, played and bid on silent auction items.

Mary Higgins of Lawrence has attended the Eudora Relay For Life since it began eight years ago. Although it was rained out this year, she still sees it evolving.

"It's growing up," Higgins said. "It's getting bigger and more fun to see the community pull together."

After all was wrapped up, Olson felt good about the event.

"It was a very rewarding experience," Olson said. "I had such a great committee. Without the committee we couldn't have done what we did."

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