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franklin county times

National Relay conference impacts two local volunteers


By Alison James


Top Relay for Life volunteers from all over the world convened at the 2016 National Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas, this month, and two people from Franklin County Relay for Life were among them.

“It was a great honor for us to be invited,” said Anna Duncan, Relay for Life Community manager, who, along with Franklin County Relay for Life event coordinator Belinda Johnson, represented Franklin County at the conference. Duncan and Johnson were two of only 10 from North Alabama and 90 total from the entire Mid-South Division, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Neither of them had ever been before.

The invitation, Johnson said, was based off the success of this year’s Relay for Life Fundraising campaign, and she and Duncan represented all those who helped fundraise in Franklin County.

Everyone was impressed by how much money was raised – $107,000-plus, a $20,000 increase over last year – by a rural area with few major corporate sponsors.

Duncan said she didn’t know what to expect from the conference.

“I had never been to Dallas, and I had never been to something like this before,” Duncan said. “I knew I was going to learn something, and I was excited about that, but it far exceeded all of my expectations. They had stuff for us to do from the second we got off the plane until we were in the bed at night.”

Duncan and Johnson said the 1.5 day conference – Friday afternoon through Saturday – was chockfull of brainstorming sessions, motivational speakers and emotional testimonials. It was an experience that was inspirational and energizing.

“I wish everyone in Franklin County could experience what we experienced,” Johnson said. “We actually heard from and saw people who are impacted by the programs that are paid for by the cancer society, whether it’s Hope Lodge, Road to Recovery or just the support they needed through their cancer treatment. I truly believe if everybody could see and hear what we did, they would be lined up to have a team for Relay for Life.”

Duncan described the atmosphere of the event as being “electric with energy and passion,” and said she and Johnson returned ready to “paint the world purple,” – a Relay for Life tagline.

“We were up late at night discussing ideas – that’s just the kind of fire that was lit under us,” Duncan said.

Johnson emphasized that the expenses for the conference were very low, and funds were used wisely.

Duncan and Johnson said the national leadership conference motivated them to try new ideas to make Relay for Life in Franklin County better than ever. One idea is to make team captain meetings livelier, with more interactive, energetic atmospheres.

“Every one one of our team captain get-togethers is a party with a purpose,” Johnson said.

Revamping and expanding Relay for Life to renew excitement about the actual event is another focus.

“Everybody has seen it; everybody has done it,” Johnson said. “Anna and I are trying to take ideas from other Relays to make it something different that Franklin County families do want to come to, to make the event in Franklin County that everybody is like, ‘Let’s go and see what they are doing this time.’”

Johnson encouraged community members to share their ideas for what they want Franklin County Relay for Life to look like.

May is Relay for Life time in Franklin County, but although Johnson and Duncan are revved up already, kick-offs and campaigns will actually begin around October.