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Relay for Life is close to goal and still counting

Relay for Life is close to goal and still counting
June Smith, of Adams, a 12-year breast cancer survivor, looks at luminaria during the annual Mower County Relay for Life Saturday at Bandshell Community Park in Austin.

From the top of the hill, the winding rows of luminaries on Saturday at the Mower County Relay for Life in Austin looked a bit like tents in a scene from the Civil War.

The white paper bags had been meticulously set down on both sides of the path that circles the encampment at Community Bandshell Park by an army of draftees.

There were no volunteers for this event. All are driven by their grief for loved ones cut down by the relentless foe. Talk to them for a while and you will hear the anger for an enemy that strikes young and old alike for no apparent reason. Make no mistake, they are at war with that enemy.

Yet the Relay for Life that began — after a year’s preparation — at 3 p.m. Saturday and stayed on plan until 7:30 a.m. Sunday, quickly took on a carnival atmosphere with music and games. Children ran up and down the path like they do in any park.

This year’s fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society brought in $88,716.


That figure is $757 larger that last year’s, but short of this year’s $90,000 goal by $1,284. Relay for Life Chair Linda Baier said donations will be coming in through August. "Sometimes it just takes a little more time to get things done," she said.

With auctions and dunk tanks and other fundraisers, the event engages many participants, but late in the afternoon is when the event becomes more serious.

Those wearing purple T-Shirts, cancer survivors, took the first walk along the path, led by honorary chairs Mike Simmons and Megan Tapp.

Veteran participants note that the mood in the park changes with dusk and the lighting of the luminaries. The flickering candles are symbolic of life, and the names of those honored stand out on the white surfaces, many with color photos.

Twenty teams participated in this year’s relay, she noted. "They are walking when most people are sleeping."

Teams are key to a successful fund drive, too. More than 3,000 luminaries were sold this year at $10 apiece, accounting for more than $30,000 of relay income.

IBI Data of Brownsdale set the pace this year with $19,035. The effort included the company’s Black and While Ball in the ballroom of Austin's Holiday Inn in May.

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