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Weather smiles on Relay For Life

PARK HILLS — Friday night’s weather in the Parkland was great, but the cause for which hundreds of St. Francois County residents came together to make a positive difference in the lives of cancer victims was even greater.

The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life  brought out 138 survivors and 28 teams, as well as numerous caregivers and volunteers to raise money for the fight against cancer. Local Relay For Life Chairperson Tara Gann said Sunday that this year’s event, the 16th held in St. Francois County, had been one of their most successful ever, raising a total of $131,078.

“We are very pleased with the amount raised by our teams and through our corporate sponsors this year,” she said. “We know the final total is going to be even greater when we get the final figures in.”

 This year’s rally took place from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday on the Mineral Area College campus in Park Hills. Opening ceremonies began at 7 p.m. with the presentation of the colors by Boy Scout Troop 483, the singing of the national anthem by Shelly Odle and invocation brought by Deacon Mark Byington, St. Joseph Church of Bonne Terre.

Welcoming RFL participants to the campus this year was MAC employee and cancer survivor, Peggy Gillespie, who spoke in the absence of President Steven Kurtz. Following brief remarks given by Missouri Rep. Linda Black, cancer survivor Carolyn Tyler shared the story of her recent fight against the deadly disease.

“I’ve been on both sides of Relay,” she said. “I was St. Francois County chairman for 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2006, I was fortunate enough to attend Celebration On The Hill in Washington, D.C. As of Mothers Day, May 9, 2011, I was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It was devastating for a short while to hear that I had the dreaded cancer, but by the end of the day I had decided I was going to be a survivor.”

Tyler learned that her cancer was inoperable and wouldn’t shrink. The most she could hope for was no further growth. She began radiation treatments and then chemotherapy. The treatments continued until October 2011.

“Since that time, I have C.T. scans every two months,” she continued. “So far we have no new growth.”

A few months ago, however, Tyler said she broke a bone in her back, causing more concern.

“You wonder if it’s more cancer,” she said. “After another biopsy, there was no cancer in the bones. By filling that bone with what they called ‘cement,’ I immediately had no more pain. I was allowed to come home 30 minutes later. God was watching over me again!”

She thanked her caregivers and family for the support they’d given her in her fight against cancer.

“I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband of 50 years who sometimes protects me too much,” said Tyler. “Also, three wonderful daughters, sons-in-law, six fantastic grandchildren, mother, brother, sister-in-law and many other relatives and friends. With all that support, how can you not beat cancer?”

This year’s Mike Dealy Spirit award was presented to Survivorship chair and cancer survivor Judy Sherrill for her years of work in helping to make the county’s RFL a success.

Next, a special award was presented to the family of the late Norma Clauser on her behalf. Clauser was one of the first organizers of RFL in St. Francois County. She died from cancer in April of this year after a long and difficult battle against the disease. Accepting the award was her husband and son, Perry and Perry Jr.

The Norma Clauser Award was presented to long-time RFL volunteer Juanita Gillam.

Presentation of the Norma Clauser Award was followed by the recognition of the cancer survivors in attendance as they made the first lap of the evening around the course.

After completion of the Survivors Lap, the Luminaria Ceremony began. The touching and memorable ceremony served as a way to honor survivors and those who have lost their battle to cancer.

Throughout the evening there were a number of special laps that included the Walk with a Parent-Child Lap, Walk with a Sibling Lap, Super Hero Theme Lap, Sports Theme Lap, Big Hair Lap, Formal Lap, Sweetheart Lap, Halloween Lap, Patriotic Lap, Pajama Lap and Early Bird’s Lap.

A total of 28 teams participated in this year’s RFL. They were: BJC Home Care Services, Bosom Buddies, Breast Friends, Bud’s Believers, Cancer Stompers, Casey’s Crusaders, Castaway Cancer, FAFAC: Friends and Family Against Cancer, Friends 4 Life, Helping Hands, J.D. Street and Company, Jones-ing for a Cure, King’s Court, LEADCO Raising For a Cure, License to Cut Cancer, Lifesavers, MARMC (Miracles Are Ready Meet The Cure), Myranda’s P.A.L.S., Save-A-Life, Saving Second Base, Staff of Serenity Hospice Care, Survivor’s For Life, Team Accent, Team MAC, The Boulevard, The Classroom, Turner Chevrolet/Cadillac and Walgreens-Farmington.

The event ended with a closing ceremony on Saturday morning to mark the conclusion of this year’s effort. According to Gann, the top team this year was Turner Chevrolet/Cadillac who raised more than $31,000, a county record.

Coming in at second place was Save-A-Life, which earned more than $22,000.

Rounding out the top three in third place was the License to Cut Cancer team that raised more than $15,000.

The Walgreens team was named “Most Spirited” for this year’s event.

Members of the 2012 RFL Planning Committee are Tara Gann, chairperson/activities; Brian Boyer, logistics; Jim and Judy Gillam, corporate sponsorship; Arlene and Dale Jones, luminaria; Judy Sherrill, survivorship; Jessica Crepps, secretary; Katie Dickerson and Kim Fortner, team development; Wesley Straughn, food and beverage; Charlie Berry, sound/music/entertainment; Tami Roberts, small business signs; Kevin Jenkins and Mark Toti, public relations/marketing; Marcie and Becky Mueller, cleanup; Lauren Schweiss, ACS staff partner; Dave Bahr, committee mentor; and Glenda Straughn and Katie Dickerson, survivor dinner chairs.

Corporate sponsors for this year’s RFL are J98 The Boot, BUNZL, Parkland Health Center, Walgreens, Mineral Area Regional Medical Center, Elks Lodge No. 1765, A&W, Mineral Area College, Cardinals, Long John Silver’s, ACCENT, Belgrade State Bank, Benham Street Grill, Botkin Lumber Co., Bruce Griffon’s Trailer Town Inc., Crown Motors, Grand Rental Station, Midwest Sports, Music Unlimited Sound System, Ozark Federal Savings & Loan, Park Hills Rivermart, Prairie Farms Dairy, Show-Me-Rent-to-Own and Ultimate Paintball.

Also, AmerenUE, Bahr’s Lawn Service, Casey’s General Store, Catfish Kettle Restaurant, Chelly Odle Band, Coldwell Banker-Hulsey Real Estate, Complete Vision Care, Concessionaire Extraordinaire, CZ Boyer & Sons Funeral Homes, Elizabeth Hall, Farmington First State Bank, F.L. Porter’s Wholesale Produce, Fresh & Clean Restrooms, H.E. Williams Termite & Pest Control, Hub’s Pub LLC, Hubbard Construction & General Contracting, Inc, Huskey’s Feed, Johnson Distributors, Lead Belt Materials, Lead Co. Community Credit Union, Little Caesars Pizza, Medley’s Ice, Meineke Car Care Center, PRI Custom Catering, Proffer Wholesale Produce, Sam Scism Ford Motors, Inc., Smith Motor Freight, Straughn Farms & Properties, The Family Center, The Sheriff’s Band, members of the West County Honor Society and Emily Brown and Sarah Huck.

Gann said, “I want to thank all of this year’s planning committee and team members who made this year such a great success. Even though my name is at the top as chairperson, I couldn’t have done this without all of their hard work. I also want to than our ACS staff partner, Lauren Schweiss. She is incredible, always energetic and having a big smile on her face. What I’m really happy about, though, is that all of the funds raised throughout this past year and at this weekend’s relay will help keep the mission of the American Cancer Society going strong.”

A “Wrap-Up” meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 20, at MAC’s North College Center. At the meeting Gann said the team awards will be presented and the final amount of funds raised will be announced.

Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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