Teams raise over $17,600

Hollan Holm

Iraq and Mardi Gras came together last weekend.

The auxiliary football field was both a battle ground and a party. Burgers and bands were the weapons of choice.

Participants from all walks of Western life joined together to celebrate students who had survived cancer and raise money to fight the disease.

Months of preparation paid off for Relay for Life organizers last Friday night. Western students and area high school students formed 23 teams to raise more than $17,600 for the American Cancer Society.

The money will be used for research to find a cure for the disease 1.3 million Americans were diagnosed with last year, according to the ACS web site.

Bowling Green senior Alison Cooke said the number of teams had more than doubled from last year, it’s first year at Western. Cooke served as chair of the organization committee both last year and this year.

Brenda Moore, director of income development for ACS in Warren County, estimated 500 people attended Friday night. But by Saturday morning, all the walkers had gone home, due to the cold.

Western’s relay is separate from the Warren County relay that will be held in May this year, Cooke said.

“It’s more in honor of Western students and youth who have survived cancer,” she said.

The relay’s other purpose, celebrating those who have survived cancer, can be complicated when it comes to involving college students.

“It’s hard to find (college-aged) survivors of cancer,” Cooke said “People our age are like, ‘I survived it, but I don’t want to talk about it.'”

Tabitha Briggs, a junior from Franklin, spoke on behalf of the survivors in the opening ceremony at the relay. Briggs’ diagnosis of breast cancer came in May 2000. For three years, Briggs has battled her cancer with regular chemotherapy treatments in Nashville, Tenn.

“It’s been such a big part of my life, words can’t describe how truly blessed I am to be here,” Briggs said. “So many people have died. To have had something so serious in your body and to have survived it is amazing.”

Briggs and the five other survivors present walked the first lap around Feix Field in the ceremonial Survivor’s Lap. One survivor put her arm around Briggs’ shoulder as they rounded the first turn carrying the Relay for Life Banner. A recording of Destiny’s Child singing, “I’m a survivor. I’m gonna make it,” played on the public address system in the distance.

“We don’t really have a lot of participation from faculty and staff,” Cooke said. “That’s one of the things that really surprised me. You hear about faculty and staff with illnesses and diseases, but they never come to this.”

Bands such as Floord and Tyler Cain, who played later in the evening, donated their talents to the relay. Organizers charged $5 admission to anyone not participating on a team.

“It’s another way to enhance the money we raised,” Moore said.

Students, like sophomore Rebecca Cannon of Morgantown, continued to raise money throughout the night. Cannon, a member of the Delta Omicron professional music fraternity, flipped burgers on the grill to sell to other teams at the relay. The DOs also sold souvenir candles and lemonade shake ups.

Cannon said she has lost four people in her family to the disease.

“The importance of this is to make people aware that there is cancer all around us, no matter if it’s family or friends,” she said.

Reach Hollan Holm at [email protected]