Callaway Relay For Life hopes for more heroes

Tim Freeman with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network speaks to attendees of the Callaway County Relay For Life Kickoff Thursday night. Event organizers hope to raise $46,000 for this year’s relay.

Tim Freeman with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network speaks to attendees of the Callaway County Relay For Life Kickoff Thursday night. Event organizers hope to raise $46,000 for this year’s relay. Photo by Katherine Cummins.

Lung cancer and breast cancer survivor Debbie Wiggins says Relay For Life saved hers.

“Had it not been for you all, I would be in a cemetery in Macon,” Wiggins told attendees of the Relay For Life of Callaway County gathered for the 2014 kickoff Thursday night.

Wiggins spoke at Thursday night’s gathering as an American Cancer Society Hero of Hope, but she told the fundraisers they were the heroes.

“Who here is a survivor? You guys became heroes when they told you (that) you had cancer. Who here is a caregiver? If it wasn’t for caregivers, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Wiggins said, before going on to acknowledge relay participants for their efforts. “Relay For Life raising money for research, and somebody funding a drug called Topotecan saved my life, and for that, I thank you very much.”

Linda Boshers, event manager for the Callaway relay, said the relay committee’s goal this year is to have more heroes raise more money in the hopes of saving more lives.

Last year, 16 teams raised a total of $44,295 at the Relay For Life of Callaway County. This year event organizers hope to have 20 teams and raise $46,000.

“Yes, most definitely,” Boshers said when asked if she thought Callaway could reach that goal. Asked why she was so confident, Boshers responded, “Because I have to be.”

Boshers is a cancer survivor herself, and she served as her husband’s caretaker before he died from the disease. She said that personal connection is what has kept her active with Relay For Life since it started in Callaway in the late ’90s.

“I relay because I want a world without cancer — it devastates everyone it touches,” Boshers said. “I relay to find a cure.”

Melanie Christopher, the advocacy chair, is participating in the relay for the first time after being persuaded by Boshers to participate.

“My friend asked me to, and when she was talking about it she was so passionate, she said, ‘It’s not enough to just survive, we have to help others,’” Christopher said.

Relay Committee treasurer Joy Shawley ... shared a few tips for first-time participants.

“Here are three things I wish I’d known last year,” she said. “Rely on the committee members — ask them questions; don’t be afraid to ask for corporate sponsorships from your employer or other businesses; the number of fundraisers you do doesn’t matter — you don’t have to do a lot, they just have to be well-planned.”

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