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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Freedom Area Relay for Life to sponsor kickoff event

When the Freedom Area Relay for Life began eight years ago, participants raised $36,000 in conjunction with their first event, said Tianne Collins, one of the organization's founding members.

Now, the Freedom Area Relay teams are celebrating meeting a goal last year of $120,000, and are gearing up for the 2014 Relay for Life, one of the most prominent fundraisers nationwide that collects for cancer research on behalf of the American Cancer Society, Collins said.

"I love it so much," said Collins, who serves as the group's fundraising chairwoman. "It's truly a family event."

The Freedom Area Relay for Life will host a kickoff event 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16 at the Sykesville-Freedom District fire company's fire house, partnering with the Westminster Relay for Life. The kickoff functions as a precursor for the actual Freedom Area and Westminster Relay for Life walks in April and May, and means to educate Carroll County residents about how they might begin fundraising, according to Kathy Martin, the Freedom Area Relay for Life event chairwoman.

Relay for Life is a 12-hour walk sponsored different times of the year across the country. Participants form teams prior to the walk and fundraise however they like, Martin said. During the event, at least one member of the team is supposed to walk around a designated track for the duration of the walk. Another portion of the event includes the luminaria ceremony, in which participants purchase small, white paper bags for $10 and light a candle inside them in remembrance of a loved one who lost the battle to cancer. The luminaria remain illuminated for the remainder of the Relay.

Anyone can form a team, which typically consists of between eight and 10 members - often, workplaces, churches and schools will create teams, Martin said.

Martin said her team - composed of 13 to 15 members of her family in South Carroll - crafts homemade earrings to sell before the walk, she said. Three of Martin's family members, including her father, have died of cancer.

"That's why it's so important to educate people," she said. "It's touched everybody."

Lori Crook, the Carroll County Relay for Life specialist for the American Cancer Society, said her responsibility is supporting the various Relay committees in Carroll County, usually by brainstorming strategies to entice teams to register, as well as business donors.

Crook took her position just a month ago, but said she worked at the American Cancer Society when the Freedom Area Relay was founded nearly a decade ago. After a stint in finance and several moves crossing state borders, she said she is pleased to be back.

"I think it's grown a lot," Crook said, referring to the Freedom Area Relay. "It's so wonderful to see some of the same faces that were here eight years ago. The committee is really strong."

The Kickoff, which means to attract local participation, will feature booths manned by American Cancer Society and Relay representatives, who will provide information on team registration and donations.

"It's good to let people know what we're doing," Martin said.

Martin said the Freedom Area and Westminster Relay for Life will also announce their themes of the 2014 Relays, voted on by past participants. Each year, participants select a different theme for the walk, last year's Freedom Area Relay being a "Rock around the Clock."

The Kickoff attracts upwards of 60 locals, while the Freedom Area Relay sees at least 500, Martin said.

Over the years, local schools have also joined in by sponsoring their own mini-relay events, Collins said.

Collins said when she visited Freedom District Elementary School, which for the last few years has put on a Relay from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the school, she said she was touched by how many children already had been affected by cancer.

"I went to a classroom and when I asked, 'Who here has been touched by cancer?,' everybody raised their hands," Collins said. "And these were kindergarten to fifth grade students."

For more information, visit the Freedom Area's Relay for Life donation page at bit.ly/1fWva1S.


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