Written by Publisher, Wakulla.com Tuesday, 24 April 2007 17:49
2007 Wakulla County Relay for Life a Huge Success
Live, Laugh, Hope...CURE! This was the theme of the 2007 Wakulla County Relay for Life Celebration, and there was plenty of living, laughing, and hoping going on at the Wakulla High School track this past weekend, April 20 and 21. Hundreds of people turned out for the overnight event to honor those who have survived cancer, and to remember those who lost their battle.
According to Event Chair Linda Stalvey, close to $80,000 is projected to be this year's total funds raised for the American Cancer Society. "I am just ecstatic," exclaimed Stalvey, herself a cancer survivor. "It was a great success, but I could not have done it without Event Co-Chair Gilly Garcia and the wonderful Relay committee chairs and committee members. They helped me look good!"
This year's event drew 41 teams, made up of caring businesses, churches, schools, organizations, and groups of friends, who began raising money for the event long before this past weekend. Each team member is given a designated time to "walk" the track, with the goal being to have at least one member from each team on the track at all times throughout the entire event, signifying that "Cancer Never Sleeps."
The theme for the team campsites was "Cartoon Characters", and the track was lined with all sorts of imaginative, creative, and elaborate entries. Some of the cartoons depicted were "Pink Panther: Drigger's Detective Agency" (from Crawfordville Elementary); "The Flintstones" (from Wakulla High); "Dora the Explorer" (from WHS); "The Little Mermaid" (from Crawfordville United Methodist Church); "Beetle Bailey" (from the Spirit of Hope); "Dr. Seuss" (from Wakulla High); "Quickdraw McGraw" (from Medart Elementary); "Sesame Street" (from Wakulla Bank); "Mulan" (from Hope's Heroes); and "Scooby Doo" (from Wakulla Middle). Tents were pitched behind the booths for those who planned to spend the entire night at the track.
Along with the wonderful booths, delicious food was served all around the track. Hamaknocker's Bar-B-Que was on tap at the Medart Elementary booth, chargrilled hamburgers and hotdogs were being prepared by the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office, and Beetle Bailey's "Camp Swampy" had a might fine chow line of its own!
Relay judges Deborah Hood, Valencia Burke and Cheryl Swift toured the track and awarded the following recognition to the winning teams:
BEST FOOD: Medart Elementary School with Hamaknockers BBQ
BEST COSTUME: WHS Interact Club with "The Flintstones"
BEST CAMPSITE DECORATIONS: Crawfordville United Methodist Church with "The Little Mermaid"
The event officially kicked off at 6:00 p.m. with the Survivor's Lap. This year's Honorary Chair was cancer survivor Karen Tully, who addressed the huge crowd before the lap began. "I shouldn't be here today," said an emotional Tully. "Technology is why I am here, and if we'd had this technology 10 years ago, there would be more people here with us right now." Tully stressed the importance of giving to Relay to help fund cancer research, and thanked all her caregivers who stood beside her throughout her ordeal. Then she and her family members and caregivers led the rest of the success stories, the survivors, around the track as the crowd cheered them on. According to Survivor Committee Chair, Queen Webster, there were 105 survivors who participated in this year's event.
Afterwards, team members began to walk the track, some of them dressed in costumes to go along with their booth's theme. The evening's entertainment began, kicked off with music from singer/guitarist Brett Wellman, who also served as emcee, along with his wife, Alicia Wellman. Wellman was followed by the High Mileage Band, who wowed the crowd with their usual mix of favorites. The Mountain Dew Cloggers wrapped things up with their always entertaining dance steps. Adam Hill did a wonderful job providing the sound for the entire event. Cuckoo the Clown was there to entertain the children with his amazing balloon animals and flowers.
The track was lined with white luminaria bags, adorned with the names of both cancer survivors and those who have passed. Each bag is filled with sand and a votive candle is placed in the center. At dark, the candles are lit to create a ring of light around the track. This year's Luminaria Ceremony began at 9:00 p.m., and was just as meaningful and touching as always. Diane Driggers, a teacher at Crawfordville Elementary School and a six month breast cancer survivor, was the keynote speaker. She spoke about the importance of early detection, noting that her cancer was caught in its very early stages through her routine mammogram. "Ladies, please get a yearly mammogram," pleaded Driggers. "It saved my life." She implored husbands and fathers to encourage the women in their lives to go for yearly testing, as well.
Brooke Brown, the reigning Miss Wakulla County, sang "I Believe" by Fantasia, and "For Good" from the musical Wicked as an emotional slide show of past Relay photos, produced by Darren Webb of Capital City Bank, was dsplayed on the stage. Candles were passed out to crowd members, and after a presentation from the Luminaria Committee, a candle light lap was walked to remember and honor all those whose lives have been touched or ended by cancer.
According to Luminaria Committee Chair Lou Ann Crum, 600 luminaria were sold this year. "I was very pleased with the number of bags that were sold," said Crum. "The luminaria sales are usually a big part of our fundraising, and this year was no exception." Crum thanked her fellow committee members, Jan Pearce, Leigh Ann Griner, Cori Revell, Karen James, Judy Brown, and Mary Katherine Westmark for helping make the Luminaria portion of the event a success. "I'd also like to thank Brooke Brown, Diane Driggers, and Greg James for participating in the actual ceremony, and the Riversprings Wrestlng Team members who helped place the luminaria bags around the track."
Afterwards the evening's entertainment continued, with the Spirit of Hope gospel singers, followed by Jerry Evans and Friends. The ever-popular "Mr. Relay Contest" was held at 11:00 p.m., and Lighthouse Karaoke kept the joint jumping until 4:00 a.m. Performances continued throughout the night and early morning hours, including music from Mary Updegraff, Brooke Brown, the River of Life Family, Chuck Nusso, and Pink Shoelaces. The Wakulla Wigglers were the event's last performers, going on stage Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m.
The closing ceremony began at 10:30 p.m., and the event was officially wrapped up at 12:00 p.m. "I just can't get over how much support we always have at Relay," said Linda Stalvey. "This is such a giving community." Stalvey added that she would like to thank all the sponsors who helped make this year's celebration possible, and thanked all the community members who came out for the event. "We'll take about six weeks off, and then we'll start planning for next year," said Stalvey. "Mark your calendars, because the 2008 Relay will be held the weekend of April 18th and 19th!" Stalvey added that there will be a Relay Wrap-Up Party on Thursday, May 10, at 7:00 p.m. at Wildwood Country Club. All Relay participants and sponsors are invited to attend.
If you didn't make it out to this year's event, plan to come out next year, even if it's just long enough to walk a few laps. Every one of us has been touched by cancer in some way, and until a cure is found, we must continue to: Live, Laugh, Hope...CURE!
Please click here to view several wonderful photo galleries of the weekend's festivities!
This article originally published on April 24, 2007.
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