By Kim West
Throngs of dancers, deafening music and a capacity crowd clad in costumes rocked the Limestone County Event Center on Friday night and into daybreak Saturday, but the center hadn’t morphed into a techno nightclub or a Lady Gaga concert.
Instead, the downtown venue served as an alternate location for the Limestone Relay for Life, which began at 7 p.m. Friday with a survivor lap and closed at 7 a.m. Saturday by remembering loved ones and encouraging survivors to continue their efforts to challenge the disease.
Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The event is held at the Athens Sportsplex, but forecasts of heavy rain compelled organizers to move the event indoors.
Superheroes for cancer
The venue change and the torrential rain that pelted Athens late Friday night did not seem to affect the large turnout. Many in attendance wore superhero-themed costumes to reflect this year’s theme, “Saving the World, One Cure at a Time.”
Athens High School sophomore Marie Trent, 16, walked dozens of laps in a red cape, light blue tights and shiny black boots as the mascot for Wonder Women of JNES.
The Wonder Women were raising money in memory of the late Elizabeth “Libby” Glasscock McDaniel, who died in December and was a kindergarten teacher at Julian Newman Elementary School for 38 years.
Wearing a bright pink zebra print cape and T-shirt, Limestone County Schools administrative assistant Chery Campbell helped organize a spur-of-the-moment addition to the Relay field, the Central Office’s Caped Crusaders.
The team included Pam Malone, a cancer survivor, and the family of Tom Sisk, whose father died from cancer. Sisk’s daughter, Katie, has been in remission from Diffuse B-cell lymphoma for the past 2 1/2 years.
Katie Sisk, 20, works at Athens-Limestone Hospital and will likely study nursing at Calhoun Community College. She said she eventually planned to pursue a degree in pediatric oncology.
Teams were set up in festive tents in the middle of the makeshift walking track and along the walls of the event center. Jewelry, homemade ice cream, “Superhero Punch,” cotton candy, chicken stew, cupcakes, raffle tickets and T-shirts were being peddled throughout the night to add to teams’ fundraising coffers.
This year’s Relay drew 514 participants on 42 teams that raised at least $72,775. The preliminary total was a result of a year-long campaign that culminated with the all-night fundraiser.
Final numbers were not available Saturday, as teams will still be able to turn in donations and pledges after the event. The yellow-clad “T & C Stampede,” a rookie team from T & C Stamping Inc. in Athens, led all teams with more than $18,500 raised by 22 team members.
Leah Stephens, who co-owns T & C with her mother and brother, said the 75-employee company raffled away vacation time, sold cookbooks and sponsored a weekly $5 lunch from mid-January to early May, among other fundraisers.
“We did this for a special employee who has been diagnosed with lymphoma, and an employee who passed away from cancer,” said Stephens. “Cancer has touched a lot of people at our company, and the fundraising has been a total team effort.”
The American Cancer Society reported 3.5 million people participated in Relay for Life last year, with 35 local teams raising more than $71,000. The world’s largest nonprofit fundraiser has generated more than $3 billion since it officially started in 1986.
To view more Relay for Life photos, visit the SmugMug page by clicking on the Photo Gallery tab on the left side of the website.