Letcher County residents have raised more than $155,000 this year to benefit the American Cancer Society.
After months of fund-raising for Letcher County Relay for Life, 23 teams gathered together at Riverside Park on June 3 to raise cancer awareness, celebrate cancer survivors and remember those who have died from cancer.
Alberta Perry, chairperson for the Letcher County Relay for Life Committee, said fund- raising efforts have totaled $155,181.14, but that amount will continue to increase because the fiscal year doesn’t end until August.
“It’s crazy,” said Perry. “I don’t know where all of this comes from, but it does. I never dreamed we were going to bust $150,000.”
This is the third year in a row more than $100,000 was raised during a Relay for Life event in Letcher County. Fund-raising efforts totaled $113,666.97 in 2010. In 2009, $102,182.88 was collected and $69,817 was raised in 2008.
This is the 15th year Letcher County residents have participated in a Relay for Life event. Money is raised during the year through various fund- raisers including bake sales, carwashes and raffles.
“We put a lot going into that thing,” said Perry. “It’s an ongoing thing for six months.”
Childers Oil Company is the first team to raise more than $ 50,000. Team members sold $25,000 worth of cookbooks and made $20,000 by selling paper suns at $ 1 each. Cumberland River Coal Company raised more than $15,000. Letcher Elementary School raised $10,152.
At the beginning of the event, cancer survivors walk a lap around the track. Later on in the festivities, luminaries are lit in memory of those who died from cancer.
People set up tents along the track and participate in different activities throughout the night. Perry said more than 1,200 people attended this year’s event with about 50 people staying until 7 a.m. on Saturday.
“I think it is the best one we have had thus far,” said Perry, “not only because of the money we raised. The field looked the best it has ever looked. I couldn’t have asked for the weather to be any better.”
In 1985, Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Wash., walked around a track at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of his patients. Klatt raised $27,000 by walking about 83 miles with people paying $25 to walk with him.
In 1986, Klatt organized a small team of people to walk with him in what was the first Relay For Life event. Now millions of people participate in Relay for Life events in more than 5,000 communities nationwide.
Perry said funds raised do not stay in Letcher County but go straight to the American Cancer Society for cancer research, education, advocacy and services. She said Letcher County residents do receive benefits from the funds raised. In 2010, 14 Letcher County residents stayed at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Lexington 412 nights while undergoing treatment. She said this saved residents $51,500.
During the last year, five Letcher County residents received financial assistance. Thirty-six people received cancer information. Four had assistance with lodging. Nine people received wigs, turbines or prosthetics. Fifteen people used programs and one person received a transportation voucher.
Letcher County residents receive services from two programs that started in the county three years ago. The “Reach to Recovery” program pairs breast cancer survivors with newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients to provide support and comfort through their battle with cancer. Marie Amburgey, an employee at Whitaker Bank, is a cancer survivor, who volunteers her time with the “Reach to Recovery” program.
The “Look Good, Feel Better” program helps cancer patients who have lost their hair receive wigs and turbans. Members of the program also receive a free makeup kit and meet with Charlene Mason, co-owner of the Copper Comb Beauty Salon. Mason teaches cancer patients how to care for their hair and skin while going through treatments. To make a reservation, call Mason at 633-2426.
To volunteer for these programs or to receive these services, call Perry at 855- 7962 or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345.