Cravens co-chairs for Relay for Life
by Alex McRae
This year more than four million people in 20 countries are expected to participate in “Relay For Life” events that benefit the American Cancer Society — including the event next weekend in Coweta County.
The Relay For Life is the Cancer Society’s biggest fundraiser. The first event was actually an informal affair that took place in May 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington. That single walk raised $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight cancer.
A year later, 340 supporters joined Dr. Klatt on his overnight stroll and the idea took off. Since then, Relay For Life has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer.
Success like that is only possible because the events are organized in a way that allows local people dedicated to the cause and familiar with their communities to plan to execute events that make the most of local facilities and volunteers and is publicized in a way that draws big crowds and raises big bucks for this wonderful cause.
The honorary co-chairs for the 2013 Relay For Life of Coweta County are Pat and Gene Craven, of Newnan, both of whom have been touched deeply by the ravages of cancer.
In fact, Gene, who worked at William L. Bonnell Co. in Newnan for 44 years, is a cancer survivor.
Gene was walking in the local Relay For Life event long before he was diagnosed with cancer. He walked in support of friends, family members or co-workers who were cancer victims, survivors or still fighting the disease.
Pat — a longtime employee of the Coweta County School System who has always been involved in community activities — says her acquaintance with cancer goes back decades. She still remembers when her grandfather’s younger sister became ill with cancer. The disease was treated much differently then.
“Nobody talked about it,” Pat says. “It was very hush hush, not really socially acceptable.”
Talking about cancer or joining the public fight against the disease was not a problem in 2003, when Gene was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“We were shocked,” Pat says. “I guess you always are.”
Gene had a family history of cancer and insisted on immediate surgical intervention. He was still recovering when he walked in the Relay For Life Survivor’s Lap that year with Pat by his side. Gene wasn’t quite strong enough to finish that first walk after surgery, but Pat was, and the two of them have been back for every local Relay For Life event since, not just as walkers, but volunteers, helpers, cheerleaders and encouragers in general.
Pat also walks in remembrance of her brother and his wife, who both succumbed to cancer within a span of 10 months in 2005 and 2006.
“I really enjoy it,” Pat says of the Relay for Life effort. “I like to support everyone who is out there. And we really like helping with the organizing and planning. There’s a lot to do.”
The planing for each year’s event begins in January and Pat says people would not believe the time and effort that goes into staging a successful relay.
“I’m impressed with all the businesses, offices, banks, schools, churches and other organizations that come out and put forth such a great effort to raise money for this great cause,” Pat says. “We are really touched by how many people support this event each year.”
Organizers are expecting another successful event this year. And they want to emphasize that the the Relay For Life is designed for anyone to participate in and enjoy.
Coweta’s 2013 Relay for Life begins Friday evening, and continues overnight into early Saturday at the Coweta County Fairgrounds. Teams will have tents set up around the track.
“We encourage everyone to come out and support the event whether you have been touched by cancer or not,” Pat says. “I’m convinced we can win this fight against cancer and this event helps make that possible.”