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franklin county times

Relay raises $134K for cancer research

Luminaries light the track at Russellville High School’s football stadium Friday night during the annual Relay for Life.

As luminaries were lit at last Friday’s Relay For Life in Franklin County, a scene of mixed emotions flooded across the faces of those gathered to celebrate, remember and fight back against a disease that has taken away far too many lives.
Some people silently wiped away tears shed for the loss of someone they loved; some clutched the hands of family members or friends who grieved over a person lost to cancer; others held tightly to a loved one who fought back against the disease and won; and those who fought back and now count themselves as survivors stood proud and joyous at the thought of their victory but also somber and reserved at the memories of those who weren’t as fortunate.
For cancer survivor and Franklin County Relay For Life event chairperson Belinda Johnson, the evening was something that she could hardly put into words.
“I get emotional when I think about it,” Johnson said. “This night just means so much, especially to those of us who are survivors.”
Johnson said one of the most touching parts of the evening was during the Survivor’s Lap where those who have overcome the disease walk a lap around the track at the Russellville High School Stadium and are cheered on by those in attendance.
“When we were walking and I was looking out at all the people who were clapping for us as we walked by, I turned to the lady next to me and said, ‘This is why we’re doing this. We’re doing this for those people who are clapping for us so that one day they won’t have to endure having cancer and be where we are.”
Johnson said the evening definitely had a somber tone at times since cancer has affected the lives of so many people, but the luminary bags sitting in the stands spelling out the word “HOPE” were indicative of the feeling for many others who were there.
“When the ‘HOPE’ bags were lit up Friday night, I thought of all that has been done in Franklin County to give us all hope that one day there will be a cure,” Johnson said. “Every day there are better treatments out there for us and our families and friends.”
Those treatments, care programs and life-changing research efforts provided by the American Society are largely supported through Relay For Life events across the nation.
At their kick-off meeting in January, the Franklin County Relay For Life committee set a goal to raise $121,000 by this year’s event, and as of Monday morning, they had exceeded their goal by $13,000 with a grand total of $134,000.
“This was such a huge accomplishment for this county, especially since this entire year the county has been involved in rebuilding efforts from last April’s tornado outbreak,” Johnson said. “To be able to raise that much money and still be involved in community recovery efforts is just amazing.”
Johnson said the group received an unexpected and overwhelming surprise Friday night as they were trying to tally their fundraising totals.
“We were $10,000 shy of reaching our goal of $121,000 on Friday night and we were approached by Franklin Pharmacy and asked how much we lacked,” she said. “When we told them, they made a pledge for the whole $10,000 and helped us meet our goal.
“I was just absolutely shocked and became so emotional I could barely speak. That was such a generous thing to do, and there aren’t even enough words to thank them for what they did.”
Johnson said the Relay teams and community members who held fundraisers over the past several months and raised money individually were to be commended as well.
“Everyone in Franklin County is just awesome – that’s just the best way to say it,” Johnson said. “The sponsors, the businesses, the teams, the community as a whole just worked so hard this year and I am so proud of each one of them.
“To be such a small county and to go through what they’ve gone through this year and to still have this kind of support is something Franklin County should really be proud of, too.”
Johnson said the great turn-out Friday night in spite of other events going on in the area and the overall success of this year’s Relay For Life already has her excited about next year’s event.
“I am totally confident we will do just as good or better next year,” she said. “We have a great group of people dedicated to this cause and hopefully we’ll have even more next year.”