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Mini-Relay for Life a big attraction for Carroll schools and residents

Relay for LifeAmerican Cancer Society

Butterflies were too expensive and doves were out of the question.

After six years of using balloons instead of luminaries, the mini-Relay for Life committee at Carroll Vista in Taneytown was looking for something different. Concerns for the environment had been expressed by several residents of the community for ages 55 and older regarding the biodegradable balloons' strings.

"It was a process of elimination," said Fran Krajewski, who was in charge of the project."The purpose is to raise money for cancer."

Bubbles won. Now, when the residents participate in the June 1 event, bubbles will be blown in memory of someone with cancer.

Started in 1985, Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Supporters form teams and walk around a track all night in a festive atmosphere, getting little, if any sleep.

"Carroll Vista is a 55 and older community," said Pat Tuminello, a volunteer organizer of the Relay. "There are not a lot of people who would want to spend the night outside."

Carroll Vista's interest, along with comments from local schools wanting to participate, too, led to the creation of mini-Relays — a four-hour Relay for Life held during the day.

"Mini-Relays are definitely a newer phenomenon," said Jen Burdette, community manager for the American Cancer Society, South Atlantic Division. "They have the same structure, just a shorter time frame."

Piney Ridge Elementary held its first mini-Relay for Life last year during a school day, according to Chris Snively, a school guidance counselor.

"We wanted to do something for the school," Snively said. "Cancer touches so many people. Kids are exposed to this and need to develop that understanding and background."

Last year, each grade at Piney Ridge did a ceremonial lap around the track and heard a guest speaker. The students then participated in sessions about nutrition, tobacco awareness and sun safety. Fundraising was done through restaurant nights and the selling of "spots" to be put on the school's mascot, a Dalmatian.

A similar format is planned for this year's mini-Relay for Life on May 31, Snively said.

"Everything builds on itself," Snively said. "Hopefully, this will be part of our school culture."

Gerstell Academy hosted its first mini-Relay for Life in April. The event started outside before tornado warnings forced participants inside.

"I think it went really, really well," said Mary Louque, director of admissions

She said the 24 teams of 210 participants raised more than $25,0000.

Manchester Valley High School also endured foul weather for its second annual mini-Relay for Life in April. Teams set up in the cafeteria and did laps around the school building, according to Melissa Thomas, an English teacher. Opening ceremonies and games were held in the gymnasium.

"It was such a success," Thomas said. "I can't believe how well it went indoors. We were able to accommodate all the people who came out."

Though participation was lower than expected due to the weather, the event raised more than $15,6000, Thomas said, an increase from last year's $10,000.

"It is a great event ... raising money for the good of our community," Thomas said. "I'm really proud of the kids."

There are two overnight Relays in the county in which the public may participate, Burdette said. One in Westminster is scheduled for May 17-18 at the Ag Center, and one at Liberty High School is scheduled for June 14-15. (A third overnight Relay at McDaniel College is only for students). All the mini-event proceeds feed into these two Relays.

Kate Painter has been at the helm of Carroll Hospital Center's Relay team for many years, she said, having attended its first Relay at Westminster High School and now organizing the hospital's team for ithe event's current location at the Ag Center.

"I like to do community service," Painter said. "This I can get my teeth in and really make a difference. I have the passion for it."

She has about 50 teammates lined up for this year's Relay, she said. All will have matching T-shirts, the only frill she allows along with a banner.

"I don't spend a lot of money on frilly things," Painter said. "You can decorate your site, but that would cost $50. I would rather have American Cancer Society get that money."

Carroll Vista's mini-Relay has grown to include residents of Taneytown as well as students from Silver Oak Academy, a year-round high school for youth with a history of juvenile delinquency.

"It is a wonderful, wonderful experience," Krajewski said. "There are lots of people from the community. It reaches out to so many."

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