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There is supporting a cause and then there is dedicating yourself to a cause.
This weekend, dozens of Owen countians braved some showers and then some humidity and then long hours to show how much they care about and will sacrifice for the people in Owen County who are, or perhaps will be, battling cancer.
Although the 13th annual Owen County Relay for Life formally kicked off promptly at 7 p.m. Friday, the work that led to that moment began months before. That dedication also led to a happy announcement during the opening ceremonies.
The goal of $63,500 for this year’s event had been met before the first step had been taken.
Owen County Relay for Life Co-chairman Jenni Duncan attributed the good news to good planning.
“The teams have been spreading out their fund-raising throughout the year,” Duncan said. “That helps a lot, but this has exceeded all my expectations.”
As the event kicked off, Owenton Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier welcomed the participants and reflected on the support the entire community has lent to the Owen County Relay for Life.
“For 12 hours, Owen County will be united in the fight against cancer,” Wotier said.
Special guest speaker, Owen County teacher and cancer survivor Denise Perkins, said although she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she fought through the pain, radiation and chemotherapy with determination.
Perkins said she planned two weddings and worked throughout her treatment.
“It was the kids that kept me going,” Perkins said. “... I was blessed.”
Following the ceremonial survivor’s walk, 29 teams – up from 25 last year – took to the Itron track and started the long night.
Throughout the night, the teams took part in special games and events while music filled the air.
“The Robinson Family stayed all night,” Duncan said. “Mark Robinson and one of his family members stayed and helped with logistics, which was a huge help.”
Broadlinc Communica-tions helped keep everyone in touch by establishing an Internet hot spot for Relay for Life participants.
“We didn’t ask them to do that,” Duncan said. “They just volunteered and we really appreciate that.”
Each year, a Campsite Award is presented to the team with the best set-up for the 12-hour event.
This year, the award was presented to Team Thailand, the team sponsored by Sisters’ Act.
In a night full of emotional moments, for Duncan the lighting of the luminaries around the track is deeply touching.
“I’m always moved by the luminary ceremony,” Duncan said. “That’s what it’s all about – remembering those who lost their fight and standing beside those who are still fighting.”
By the time the sun started peeking over the horizon Saturday morning, the total amount raised had jumped to over $70,000.
“It’s amazing,” Duncan said. “This is the best one I’ve been a part of in terms of money raised.”
In the 13-year history of Owen County Relay for Life, this year’s total reflects the third-highest amount ever raised. The figure could go even higher when the financial books are closed on this year’s event in September.
“Along with the money, the teams have really worked hard this year to create more awareness about Relay and that’s made a huge difference in everything,” Duncan said.
The community has also generously responded.
Owen County, Duncan said, is consistently among the top per capita donors for Relay for Life.
For each man, woman and child in Owen County, Relay has raised over $7 per person.
The success of this year’s event gives Duncan plenty of optimism for next year.
“This year, we had several teams come back after not being involved last year and we had a lot of new teams,” Duncan said. “The interesting thing to me about Relay is that for a lot of people it’s become something to look forward to and get excited about instead of some kind of obligation. That’s pretty rewarding for me and everyone who is involved in organizing.”