Woodward, Okla. —
Woodward's 2013 Relay for Life was a success.
At least according to event co-chair Kyla Smith.
"I'm really proud of the event that we pulled off," Smith said, noting "Especially with this being my first year to be an event chair, I was happy that we had a good number of teams participating, that we reached our goal and that we put on a nice event for the survivors in the community. I'm just really happy with this year's event."
She said that 19 teams participated in this year's Relay, which serves as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
Altogether she said those teams have raised over $90,000.
"Currently we are sitting right at our goal of $92,000," Smith said.
However, she said that number could change a bit when accounting for event expenses, such as the hundreds of shirts given out to participants and cancer survivors, as well as any last minute fundraising efforts.
Although the Relay event was held on June 14, she said some teams continue to collect money for the cause because "We have until July 15 to turn money in for this year's Relay."
One of the teams whose fundraising efforts are continuing is the crew from Buddies Bar, which for another year earned the title of top fundraising team.
Smith said the Buddy's team "raised right around $30,000" so far.
"They brought in $11,550 just through corporate sponsors," she said.
The team with the second highest fundraising total was "Team Justin," which raised "just over $11,000," Smith said. This team was formed in honor and memory of 18-year-old Justin Harvey who died earlier this year following a battle with brain cancer.
"I think all or at least the majority of them just graduated high school, they were classmates of Justin's," Smith said.
The other teams in the top 5 for fundraising totals were the team from Woodward Regional Hospital with around $5,000; BancCentral's team which raised $4,700; and a community and family team called "Got Hope," which raised $4,100.
In addition to recognizing the top teams, Smith also wanted to recognize some of the top sponsors.
The "platinum sponsors" for this year's Relay, which are those businesses that donated $1,000 or more, included Buddies Bar; 100.1 Spirit Country; Woodward News; Woodward Elks Rodeo; Green Zebra Services; Partylite Candles & Decorations by Duana Adams; NW ABATE No. 69 "In Memory of Bob Drake;" Titan Drilling, Diamond Services Co.; Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma "In Memory of Randy Meyer;" and L&L Services/ROC Services.
"Our sponsors bring in a good chunk of the money that we raise," Smith said. "We had 105 sponsors this year, which is a lot to try to fit on the back of a shirt. But that shows how much bigger of a struggle it would be for us to reach our goal and raise the money we want to raise here if it wasn't for the sponsors."
But, for Smith, there's more to the Relay than just a fundraiser.
"Even though the Relay is held to raise money for the American Cancer Society, I feel like the event is also a way to give back to the survivors," she said. "Because it gives them an event to attend with other survivors where they can enjoy the festivities and honor each other and themselves."
There's even a third aspect of the Relay, which is "also to remember everyone in the community that has been lost to cancer," she said.
That's why the Relay's motto is "Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back." The event celebrates with survivors, remembers those who have been lost, and raises money to support cancer research so that more patients can fight back against the disease.
This year the Woodward Relay celebrated and remembered hundreds of cancer patients, Smith said.
"We had around 170 survivors that pre-registered for the event," she said.
In addition, she said, "I estimate we sold 525 luminaria bags, but I don't know the breakdown of how many were purchased in honor of someone or in memory of someone."
Those numbers alone show the important role that the Relay plays, Smith said.
"Cancer research is where the majority of the American Cancer Society money goes and the American Cancer Society has been around for 100 years," she said. "But even in just the past 15 years since I've been involved with the Relay here, the number of cancer fatalities has dropped. You have more of a chance to survive now and it's all because of cancer research."
Since the Relay for Life is "the largest fundraiser for any organization," she said it helps to make all that research possible to help all cancer patients.
"Without local Relay for Life events, the American Cancer Society wouldn't have the funds that they have to fund research and to fund the services that it provides to those in the cancer community, such as rides, gas cards, wigs and lodging," Smith said.
She said all cancer patients have to do is call 1-800-227-2345 and they will "get connected with what they call a 'patient navigator,' who serves as a guide to help them fiend services that are available in their area. But without Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society wouldn't have the money to do that."