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Organizers say Relay was a success

Mary Bell and Bob Knox Jr. agreed Friday that the 2011 McDuffie County Relay for Life raised money and morale among local cancer survivors.

One week after the campaign that Bell and Knox directed, the two said a final tally will not be available for several weeks.

"I would think that we had between 1,500 and 2,000 folks out at the Relay at its height, and it was a good group, a great group," Knox told The McDuffie Mirror. "You could sense in the atmosphere that everybody was feeling good about the whole effort to help fight cancer."

"I thought it was wonderful," Bell told The Mirror. She said participation was not as high as it was in 2009, before the faltering economy forced the local committee to skip the campaign last year. "The people just seemed like they were so glad we were back," Bell said.

This year's fundraising goal for American Cancer Society programs was $185,000, just $2,000 higher than the total raised in 2009.

"We're about $125,000 right now, and we'll keep pushing that number right up," Knox said. "Some teams will continue to raise money right through the summer."

Bell agreed about the financial prospects, and like Knox she stressed the unity that was shown in the activities on the high school track and field the evening of May 13.

"I doubt with the economy and all that we would make the 185 (thousand)," Bell said. "We've had some new groups that took part, and there was so much excitement from them. We just had a great time."

"I was just thrilled, I really was, with the crowd that came out and the emotions that were there when the survivors walked and when we had the illumination service. It was just something that was very emotional to us who had lost someone to cancer." Bell said.

Bell and Knox said the Relay committee will present awards in a few weeks. "Probably in July we'll have a celebration luncheon," Knox said.

"We will have all the team captains meeting and telling us exactly how much they raised," Bell said.

Bell said she did not have a chance to participate on a team. "I was busy being co-director," she said, and she helped sell ice cream from the Raysville Baptist Church boost.

That effort raised about $1,200, she said.

"My husband and I made 60 gallons of homemade ice cream," she said. Church members Gail Hutcheson and Cindy Greenwell also made ice cream. Flavors included peach, strawberry, caramel swirl and more. "There's just very little left," she said.

Both co-directors tell of very personal encounters with cancer.

Knox, an attorney, judge and former mayor, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at age 25, when he was in Army officer candidate school. His early diagnosis led to successful treatment.

Bell lost her first husband to cancer; Bob Wade was a Baptist pastor in Thomson. She also lost her mother, three aunts and a grandmother to cancer. She has two brothers who have survived cancer and a sister who has survived it twice.

Bell said her son, John Wade, survived 12 tumors on his brain.

"Everybody in Thomson who knows me also knows him, and they were all praying for him and for my husband," she said.

"He survived and he's working every day," she said of John.

John, now 55, was 47 at the time of his cancer treatment, she said.

He is now employed by Pratt Industries in Atlanta and works in Cincinnati.

"There's just a lot of cancer in my family, and I'm thankful to God that I've never had cancer," she said.

Bell's husband, Ron, lost his first wife, Marge, to cancer.

"I just feel like I'm where God wants me to be, and that's helping find a cure for cancer," she said.

When she's not working though the church or Manna, the local food ministry, Bell stays busy helping others. "Everything I do is volunteer," she said. She works with the American Cancer Society, driving people back and forth to treatment in Augusta.

Knox and Bell said they have not begun contemplating a possible Relay for Life 2012.

"We haven't really talked about it. We're just recovering from this one, and making all that ice cream," Bell said.

Web posted on Thursday, May 26, 2011

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