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Relaying for a cure

Hartselle Relay for Life reported contributions totaling $83,873 following its annual celebration of life at J. P. Cain Stadium Friday night. Of that amount, $16,100 was raised at the 12-hour relay.

While the amount fell short of a goal of $135,4216, contributions will continue to be accepted by the 36 participating teams until Sept. 1, 2012, according to co-chair Shawna Fincher.

“Other contributions will be coming in,” Fincher said. “But at this point we don’t know just how much the grand total will be.

“It’s important to note that the Relay for Life received tremendous support from throughout the Hartselle area and we’re so thankful for everything that was done to help us in carrying out the theme of “Creating a World with More Birthdays.”

“Cancer touches all of us and we must work together to conquer this dreadful disease,” said staff partner Beth Tutwiler,” who welcomed cancer survivors, caregivers and many others at the relay’s opening ceremony. She pointed out that the Hartselle Relay for life has generated more than one-half million dollars for cancer since its organization in 2006.

About 150 survivors were the focal point of the relay’s opening. They were recognized by the length of time they have survived the disease and given the honor of walking the first two laps of the relay. The first lap was walked alone, after which they were joined by their caregivers for another lap.

At 24 years, Jerry Putman was one of the longest survivors who participated in the relay.

“”This is great,” he stated. “It makes me feel good to see this much interest and effort being demonstrated for a common cause. Cancer is no longer a death sentence,”

Hartselle’s Idella Orr added, “It’s a blessing to be a survivor. Each morning I wake up and say: ‘thank you Lord, for this day.’ I plan to be a part of the Relay for Life from now on.’”

Working with Fincher as co-chair is Tonya Hardin. They were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and met while watching their children compete in Hartselle youth sports. Subsequently, they organized “Team Tigers” and enlisted children of ages six to 12 to help them raise money for the Relay for Life. That led to their decision to co-chair the event.

“The thing that has impressed me the most as one of the relay’s co-chairs is the level of dedication of our local families. They want to honor and give back to family members who are battling cancer as well as those who are no longer with us. My goal is to get more children involved and grow more teams for the relay.”

Serving with Fincher and Hardin on the relay team are: Melissa Kent, Kim Vernetti, Amy Balch, Lisa Shelton, Lisa Demastus, Robin Puckett, Dawn Caroll, Lori Knox, Seth Nuss, Kelley Redmond, Elaine Balch, Nikki Frost, Annette Frost, Melba Southard and Megan Smith.