Area residents and supporters helped 10 Relay teams collect $29,494.04 for the American Cancer Society this year. Team members will continue to collect donations through Aug. 31.
"With all the disasters that have happened this year -- the Joplin tornado and all the flooding -- I feel this year's turnout was great," said Carol Craig, South Barry County Relay For Life Committee co-chair. "Seeing the youth involved was great.
"So many times we hear how bad the new generation is, but the group that was at Relay this year was a very outstanding group," said Craig. "They are being shown by their parents and grandparents what it means to put forth an effort and maybe undergo a little inconvenience for something you feel strongly about."
"I think everyone did such a terrific job, and in this economy it wasn't easy," said Julie Grillone, Relay Committee co-chair. "I feel so proud of everyone and their efforts. I'm very thankful to the Family Life Center for allowing us to be indoors this year out of the dangerous heat."
The South Barry County Relay For Life Committee kicked off the event by sharing thoughts on how cancer has impacted their lives. Craig read the short stories, which were submitted by each member of this year's event organizing team.
All of the survivors in attendance received honorary purple survivor T-shirts and were invited to complete the first lap around the luminaria-lined walking path. Community members cheered on over 50 men, women and children who have won the battle with cancer as they walked the celebratory Survivor Lap.
"It was inspiring to see friends on that track knowing their story could have taken a very different route," said Grillone. "Relay for Life is making a difference in the number of survivors and that's why we work so hard."
"As always, the sea of purple shirts are very inspirational," added Craig.
Throughout the evening, the 10th annual Relay offered an assortment of festivities, including "Minute To Win It" competitions, musical entertainment, a martial arts demonstration, a basket auction, theme laps and an assortment of other games and activities.
During the traditional luminaria ceremony, hundreds of luminarias, lit by battery-operated tea lights, burned brightly along the walking path to honor those who have lost their battle or are still battling cancer. A slideshow featuring the names and photos of friends and loved ones was shown during the solemn ceremony.
The annual Relay For Life queen contest marked the half-way point of the event. Five men donned costumes and great attitudes to help their teams collect extra funds for this year's Relay.
After entertaining the crowd, the queen contestants collected money from the audience. Trey "Bobbie Breast Friends" Sturgell, representing Breast Friends Relay team, collected $768 and was crowned this year's winner.
During closing ceremonies on Saturday morning, the Mercy Miracles team was recognized as the team that raised the most funds this year. The team collected $6,723.28 for the Relay. Vicki Patterson was recognized as the individual who collected the most money.
The Dream Makers earned the award for the most laps walked by a team, and Paula Depew was recognized as the individual who walked the most laps during the Relay. Dream Makers walked 1,040 laps, and Depew walked 260 laps.
Other awards presented during closing ceremonies included: Team Spirit, Mercy Miracles; Individual Spirit, Karen Shilling; Best Campsite, Breast Friends; and Rising Star, Foxy Fighters and Breast Friends.
Dream Makers raised $2,672.50 and reached the bronze fundraising total. Barry Electric Coop Cancer Kickers raised $4,762.77 and reached the silver fundraising level, and the St. John's Hospital-Cassville Mercy Miracles reached the gold fundraising level.
Other teams that raised funds and awareness for this year's event were the Victory Walkers, Cox Health Cassville, Freedom Bank, Cancer Sucks, Fasco, Fastrip, Foxy Fighters and Maricorp.
"I enjoy knowing that the money raised is going to directly impact Barry County," said Grillone. "Last year we helped about 45 percent of the cancer patients within Barry County alone. I would love to see that number go up.
"The American Cancer Society has so much assistance available," said Grillone. "I want all our cancer patients to take advantage of everything they have to offer."
American Cancer Society services include: personal healthcare; education; nutritional supplements; gas gift cards; lodging assistance; wigs; and general information.
The following businesses served as corporate sponsors for this year's Relay: St. John's; Fasco; Fastrip; Freedom Bank; Hutchens Construction; Paw Prints Day Care for Dogs; Lakeview Acres Grocery; Commerce Bank; Victory Baptist Church; Luck E Strike; Willis Insurance; Security Bank; Barry Electric; Country Dodge; Delta Systems; and Meeks, of Shell Knob.
Several businesses provided in-kind donations for the event. They were Extra Mile Siding, Andrews and Sons Automotive, Joyous Embroidery, Ken's Collision, Shockwave Mobile Entertainment and Lane Truman.
The 2011 Relay For Life Committee includes: Rhonda Stafford, Robbie Jester and Robin Kier, team development and recruitment; Carissa Craig, online and logistics; Jean Sturgell, entertainment; Tracy Roney, fun and games; Kathy Petersen, basket auction and accounting; Anita Fare, survivor chair; Shana Daniels, sponsorships; Tara Beck, luminaria sales; Marcia Himes, accounting; and Carol Craig and Julie Grillone, committee co-chairs.
"I would like to say thank you to everyone at the Family Life Center for allowing our event to be held there," said Craig. "And thanks to all our sponsors, team captains, committee, participants, survivors and all of the volunteers, without all of you we wouldn't be able to continue the South Barry County Relay For Life."