May 5, 2010
10-087

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Champions for Relay

VALDOSTA -- Exact totals are being tabulated, but Valdosta State University surpassed it's goal of raising more than $40,000 for the American Cancer Society during its annual Relay for Life event -- "Lights, Camera, Action for a Cure" -- which was held from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. April 23-24.

More than 40 teams participated in the relay and events leading up to the 24-hour walk, including Bark for Life in Drexel Park and a dress down day. Campus-wide events such as these could not get off the ground without overwhelming support from a range of volunteers; but a few individuals always stand out as champions for the cause. Becky Murphy, assistant director of Human Resources for Employee Development, and Mary Jane Doner, administrative coordinator for Student Affairs, raised $1,500 and $1,670, respectively.

Murphy, who led the "Pirates of the Cure-ibeen" team, which raised about $3,700, has participated in VSU's Relay for Life for three years. The 20-person team dressed up as pirates as they walked the loop around the VSU front lawn and engaged participants in various fundraising games. Murphy said the experience not only reminded her of those she has lost to cancer, but connected her with people on campus who are in the fight of their life. Relay, for Murphy, is a grieving process.

"Two years ago, I dedicated my efforts in memory of my sister Nancy, who I watched die of cancer at age 38. Last year I dedicated it to my Uncle Joe, who was always so full of life and taught me so much about living. This year, I dedicated my efforts to my Uncle Mark. He was a teacher, a writer, a musician, a real estate broker, a animal rights activist, a dancer, spoke five languages and many more wonderful things. We found out in December that he had pancreatic/liver cancer, and he was gone by May," Murphy said. "I just know our efforts will make a difference. And that someday the pain and suffering that cancer causes will be no more."

Doner, who lost her mother to cancer, has been involved with VSU's Relay for Life since its inception in 2006; and before that, she participated in community Relay events. This 2010 team she organized, "Mast's Cast" -- named for Dean of Students Russ Mast -- sold raffle tickets and sent letters to family and friends to raise nearly $6,000. The longtime VSU employee said her favorite memory of the 24-hour walk on the front lawn was in 2007, when she was a member of the team "Hot for a Cure -- the Chili Peppers."

"We had a large chili pepper made out of paper Mache and wanted it mounted on top of the tent," Doner said. "The chili pepper weighed more than expected and trying to get it mounted on top of the tent was a real undertaking. Michael Lee and Rett Moore finally managed to get the chili pepper to stay on top of the tent. I remember that Relay and all the laughs we had trying to figure out how we were supposed to pull everything together."

Learn more about Relay for Life and review team and individual fundraising totals at the VSU Relay for Life website www.relayforlife.org/vsu .