Everybody, it seems, has a story. Whether it’s an aunt or uncle, a mother or a father, everyone knows somebody who’s received the cancer diagnosis each of us dreads. For Grayson College government professor Mary Linder, it was someone taken prematurely from her life in 1985, when she was still a child.
“I had several family members (afflicted), but it was really my grandfather,” Linder said Thursday. “Losing him is what really prompted me to become involved with Relay for Life.”
It was, in fact, that same year – 1985 – when Tacoma surgeon Gordon Klatt spent 24 hours circling the track at the University of Puget Sound, a seminal event that would plant the seed for modern day relays. The event has raised more than $5 billion for the American Cancer Society since its inception, and now includes in excess of 5,000 individual relays worldwide.
“Ours in Grayson County goes back to 1996; it actually started in Howe and then we moved it up here (to Denison),” said Linder, who is in her fourth year as RFL event chair. “It’s been a really strong community event, we raise over $100,000 every year. So we’re just really proud of the event, and we just want to see it grow.”
Nearly 70 teams and 1,500 individuals participated in the local relay last year, grossing $122,000 before the race even began. All told, the Grayson County Relay for Life event has raised more than $1.5 million for cancer research. Linder and her fellow volunteers held the kick-off for the 2014 event, which will be held on May 2 this year, on Tuesday at the Texoma Medical Center
“We’re moving it a little earlier by a couple weeks; trying to get off graduation weekend, because that’s been a problem in the past,” said Linder. “Our theme this year is going to be ‘Passport to Relay the Global Fight,’ because cancer really is a global fight. And so we really want to use that as the building block of everything that we’re going to do.”
Relay organizers are encouraging teams to adopt a country to represent for the event. Awards will be given for the best decorated campsite at the Denison High School track.
“We’re going to have the teams pick countries that they will use as their theme for decorating,” explained Linder. “Maybe teams can use (the theme) for their on-site fundraising or fundraising beforehand, just to try and have a little fun with it.”
Organizers said that while the details are still being finalized, they plan to include many of the aspects from previous years that have proven popular.
“We’re still kind of in the early planning stages, so you never know what may come out of it once we really get going with our themes and trying to plan some unique activities,” said Linder. “We’ll be bringing back the old favorites, though, like Mr. Relay. Dodgeball will be back; that’s been very popular. And that’s open to anybody, (even those who don’t) have a big enough group to make a team on their own.”
Whatever the final team count and fundraising haul this year, Linder said the event will inevitably be a success because of the community engagement it generates.
“I had always kind of donated money here and there, but then when (the relay) got established I was like, ‘This is what I need to do.’ Because I’m not going to be the one who’s going to actually find the cure or the next treatment or things like that, but this is something I can do to raise money for those people — to fund those studies. I want to relay until we have a party every year celebrating that we don’t have to relay anymore.”
Interested parties can visit www.RelayForLife.org/GraysonCoTx or call 903-624-4748 for more information.