Teams take on cancer in ’10 Relay

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 23, 2009

It took her mother, but it never took her.

Cancer has turned from killer to motivator for West Lincoln’sBertie Ellis. It claimed her mother, Opal Mann in 2005, and cameafter her two years later when a weeks-long bout of sickness andnausea was diagnosed as colon cancer.

“I just figured if (the doctors) got it out it’d be all right,and if they didn’t, it’d be time to go home,” Ellis said.

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It wasn’t time to go home.

Ellis, 71, faced down three tumors and beat them all. Now, as amember of “Opal’s Bunch,” a three-year veteran Relay for Life team,she’s putting her feet to the cause of raising money for cancerresearch.

“Hope,” Ellis said of her relaying. “Trying to get the word outto other people that there’s hope. Don’t give up – just keepgoing.”

The 2010 Lincoln County Relay for Life is still seven monthsaway, but when the first organizational meeting for the springtimeevent was held Thursday, Ellis was there. She’ll have the uniqueopportunity to fit into all three of the event’s purposes – tohonor the survivors, remember those who died and continue raisingmoney to research toward the cure.

The relay will be held on Friday, May 7, at 6 p.m. at BrookhavenExchange Club Park, and last through the night and into thefollowing morning. The theme for this year’s event will be TV showsof the 1950s and 1960s, with awards for best tent, apparel and soforth based on participation.

The first teams registered Thursday, including new teams likeBrookhaven Broadcasting and veterans like One Family United andOpal’s Bunch.

Hopefully, more teams will raise even more funding in 2010.

“We’ll take them the week of the event,” said Kathy Prospere, acommunity representative with the American Cancer Society. “It’snever too late. Teams can raise money and never even set up. Thereare plenty of teams that don’t have the manpower and stillcontribute.”

Contribution is the key. According to the American CancerSociety’s Web site, the organization has spent more than $3 billionsince 1946 to advance its goal of EARS – education, advocacy,research and service. In 2008, the society funded a total of $124.3million in cancer research and training.

The society ranks second in research funding behind only theAmerican government, and has funded the research of 45 NobelPrize-winning scientists.

Earlier this year, 24 teams consisting of approximately 300volunteers raised a countywide total of $87,000 for cancer researchat the 2009 Relay for Life. The total was down from the 2008 relay,in which Lincoln County walkers contributed $105,000 for the cause.Prospere said 2009’s total was still a good haul considering thestate of the national economy, adding that totals were downstatewide.

The largest contributor in the state was Lauderdale County,where approximately $300,000 was raised, Prospere said.

Organizers are not setting a target goal for 2010. Besides,raising money is only part of Relay for Life’s mission.

“We always say we want to raise more than last year,” Prosperesaid. “Participating in the relay still helps our goals of raisingawareness, recognizing our survivors – celebrating and remembering.Fighting back.”

Teams may organize and register for the relay by, or by calling Prospere at601-442-7534.