Hundreds of miles were walked in the name of cancer research this past weekend as members of the community turned out in force for the fifth annual Relay for Life of South Barry County.
As of Saturday morning, the 2006 Relay had raised $53,000 for the American Cancer Society. Cindy Puryear, chairman of the local Relay for Life Planning Committee, said this year's fundraising total is 10 percent higher than last year's.
"I thought this year's Relay was very successful," said Puryear. "We had a nice turnout of survivors and the teams just did fantastic. Everything went really, really well."
The Relay kicked off at 7 p.m. on Friday with over 50 survivors taking the first trip around the track. The survivors, wearing purple shirts and white sashes, received applause from participants and community members who lined the Cassville football field to watch them as they logged the Relay's first lap.
Following the Survivors' Lap, team members began walking and did not stop until the event ended at 7 a.m. the next morning.
At around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, a luminaria ceremony was held, honoring loved ones who lost their battles with cancer and those who are still fighting the disease. Luminarias were placed around the edge of the track and others were placed in the stands to spell out the word "HOPE." Participants walked one lap in silence in honor of those lost to cancer.
A slide show presentation was presented at the north end of the football field, honoring all those whose names appeared on luminarias. The program included pictures and music and was preceded by a heartfelt introduction presented by Barry County Associate Circuit Judge Mike Garrett, who is also a cancer survivor.
The all-night event included games, music, a basket auction, a queen contest and plenty of food and refreshments.
Winner of this year's prestigious Relay Queen contest was Dr. Joe 'Thumper" Himes, representing the Mercy Me Monkeys of St. John's Hospital-Cassville. Runner-up was Stephen Mattingly, representing Wal-Mart. Miss Congeniality honors were awarded to Robbie Artherton, representing the Java Junkies. In all, the queen contestants raised $2,887.37 for the Relay.
Several awards were announced by the Relay Committee during closing ceremonies on Saturday morning.
Gene Hastings, representing the First Christian Church team, was the individual who walked the most laps during the Relay. Hastings tallied 95 laps, or 23.75 miles for his team. The team that compiled the most laps was Ridgley Assembly of God. Through the night and into the morning, team members logged 482 laps, which is equivalent to 120.5 miles.
KWK and the Paper Gang, sponsored by the Cassville Democrat and Baywash car wash, won the award for "Best Campsite," and the "Team Spirit" award was presented to the Java Junkies, sponsored by Heritage Medical Clinic.
Several participants were named to the $1,000 Club for raising $1,000 or more as an individual. These honorees included Carol Coleman, Marcia Himes, Joe Himes, Janet Lawrence and John Marks.
A total of 18 teams set up camp at the Cassville football field this past weekend. A list of individual team members will be published in an upcoming issue of the Cassville Democrat along with the final fundraising total for the Relay.
This year, the Mercy Me Monkeys achieved a first by raising over $10,000, which earned them a Platinum team designation.
A pair of teams earned Gold Team honors for raising over $5,000. These teams were the Moonlight Knights and Wal-Mart.
Freedom Bank was recog-nized as a Silver Team for raising $3,000, and seven teams were named Bronze Teams for raising $1,500. These teams were: Helping Hands, KWK and the Paper Gang, Weight Watchers, First Christian Church, United Country Realty, Security Abstract and Ridgley Assembly of God.
Corporate sponsors in-cluded: Thirvent, Raynel Schallert; Bank of Seligman; Second Act; Heritage Medical Clinic; St. John's Hospital; Eagle Service Group, Baywash car wash; Cassville Democrat; United Country Sugar Creek Realty; Freedom Bank of Southern Missouri; Security Bank of Soutwest Missouri; Law Office of J. Michael Riehn; Hutchens Construction; Cass-ville R-IV School District; Joe's Shell Station; Weiser Tent; Moonlight Mobile DJ; Stumpff's Auction Service; Pizza Hut of Cassville and Shell Knob; Barry County Advertiser; and Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I would also like to thank all the local merchants for all they contributed to the teams," said Puryear. "It was definitely a community-wide effort."
All proceeds from the Relay for Life of South Barry County benefit the American Cancer Society.