While enjoying a covered-dish dinner consisting of a variety of home-cooked delights, interested volunteers listened intently for information on how to be involved with the American Cancer Society. Before members of the society divulged instructions and the group set goals to accomplish by September, Margaret Martin shared her story as a caregiver for her brother after his diagnosis.
"He was always trying to be strong for everyone," said Martin, as she recalled the family's struggle after learning of her brother's growing cancer and 10 percent chance of survival. Although the disease is never easy to cope with, Martin stated they found their answer of how to cope and fight "in God's hands."
Often times people see a cancer diagnosis as the end of the line and do not always know what the society has to offer. When turning to the group for help, many are advised to simply follow the doctor's plans. However, as Gretchen Barkley, Senior Community Manager for the American Cancer Society, stated, the group has many outlets to help families. "We have an oncology dietician to help with nutrition as [patients] don't want to eat, Road to Recovery provides transportation to treatments, the Hope Lodge is a free place to stay without worrying about bills associated with lodging and the support of people who are going through the same struggles."
This year, coinciding with the national theme of more birthdays, the local group encourages teams to select a birthday party idea for the fall event. Once an idea is determined, teams should e-mail Barkley at firstname.lastname@example.org so that she can log the idea and no duplicates occur.
In looking back at the 2010 accomplishments, higher goals have been set for the new group. Last year, there were 99 teams, 532 registered cancer survivors and $250,000 was raised. "That was great considering the economy," said co-chair Freddie Gunn, as he spoke to the group in setting the new goals. For this year, as a county-wide group, participants want to have 115 teams and 600 survivors and to raise $300,000 for the society's search for a cure.
While continuing to enlighten community members gathered for the kickoff, Barkley led a trivia contest to test everyone's knowledge about Relay for Life. Two audience members were selected to play the game in a buzzer-style competition. Topics included information on the luminaries, which can be purchased at different monetary levels and are placed along the track, as well as the four different ways to raise money: individual, team, on-site and online.
As teams are formed, everyone wishing to be involved should sign up online individually and provide a legitimate e-mail address for alerts and updates. All information leading up to the event will be posted on the Relay website at: www.BartowRelayForLife.org. Off-line registration forms are available only to those who do not have a valid e-mail address or access to the Internet.
This year, Renasant Bank will be in charge of collecting all money raised by individuals and teams. There are three locations within the county: the West side, Joe Frank Harris Parkway and in Adairsville. A dedicated teller line will be in place so that participants will not have to wait through a regular line to drop off their collections.
In closing, as a list of ways cancer affects everyone was read, everyone in the room, at some point, formed a circle and lit a candle in memory of those who have been lost to the horrors of cancer and in honor of survivors.
For more information on the American Cancer Society call 1-800-227-2345. To be involved in the Bartow County Relay for Life or for further guidance, call Gretchen Barkley at 770-429-0089, Ext. 222, or e-mail email@example.com.