All-Night-Long Relay For Life A Moving Event For Participants

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Ann Riehle got just four hours' sleep in 48 hours this weekend and felt that it was for a good cause.

"We worked our hearts out," she said.
Riehle was one of more than 200 volunteers who put on the American Cancer Society's first-ever Relay for Life Friday and Saturday at the Payson High School ball field. The event raised more than $12,000 for cancer programs, research and treatment.

The ACS's Relay for Life, a marathon that is scheduled for 12 to 24 hours in 2,500 towns and cities around the country, is the non-profit organization's major fundraiser in the battle against cancer.

"We're still collecting donations," said local event coordinator Susan Eavenson. "People are still calling in."

Eavenson's 10-year-old son, Chris, participated in the marathon all night long, walking and riding around the track. "He did it on his own," she said. Eavenson's friends, John Jacobson and Karl Pendergast, were also on hand helping whoever needed help.

"And Mark Isit, with the Community Youth Center, got his friends together and came down and helped. The community --basically everybody -- grabbed on and did more than their share," Eavenson said. "So many people did so many wonderful things."

Teri Tatham, information systems project manager with ACS in Phoenix, said, "For a first year event, $12,000 is awesome. This is one of the very first of the small towns to do it this year."

Tatham and her husband, Neal, were among the ACS officials to attend the Payson event, along with Steve Slaughter, chief operating officer for the organization in Phoenix.

Nancy May, an ACS coordinator, who travels around the country helping set up the event, had worked closely with Eavenson, the local chairman, prior to the event. With the help of a planning committee, they got the teams together and worked out both the large and small details of staging the Rim country's first Relay for Life.

Eavenson said she would do some things differently next year, and would start planning earlier than she did this year. She became the local chairman just three weeks before the event. On Friday, starting at 1 p.m., it was time to put all that planning into play.

The 10 participating teams put up their tents. Some, like the Payson Therapeutic Massage Group, had elaborate tents, with themes and decorations. The massage group took first place for their tie-dyed, candle-lit, incense-scented, love-beaded "Woodstock" tent.

Anita Farmer, who worked as prizes and awards chairman with the planning committee, had gotten theater tickets, gift certificates, and numerous prizes for the teams and for raffles from local businesses. Farmer said she, too, would start earlier next year, and was amazed at the response of the local businesses.

Some teams sold food, massages and fortune-telling, and others had raffles. Christy Walton, with the Payson Therapeutic Support Group, provided massages for people throughout the long night and into the morning.

Team raises more than $5,700
The Reaching Out Breast Cancer Support Group raised the most money -- $5,766. Team chairman Riehle, who also worked as behind-the-scenes chairman for the planning committee, said her team included five couples. Of the husband and wife team members, three of the couples were both cancer survivors.

The 17 team members made $620 selling luminarias at $5 each and wrote letters to out-of-town friends and relatives asking for donations. One of the team's members, local oncologist Dr. Renata M. Hanzlik, contacted a friend, who donated $1,000 and flew in from Georgia for the event.

"We decided to earn money for our team collectively and I think it worked out well," Riehle said. The team members held a garage sale and a bake sale before the event, and sold "S'Mores" and brownies at the relay.

All the money raised went into the big pot that event accountant Ginger Jeffers tallied throughout the night.

Earlier in the day, Shakey Joe Harless and Landon Fitch and their crew set up the stage and the sound system, where three very live bands played throughout the evening.

Tina Myers and Blaine Kimball and others from the local radio station also formed a team and spent 12 hours going around the track.

Boy Scout Troop 7154 with their leader, Dean Cronin, helped with the set-up and filled the balloons with helium. The Boy Scouts provided snow cones throughout the evening and the next morning, then helped with the clean-up and hauled away the luminarias.

From the opening ceremony at 6 p.m., when the 45 cancer survivors released the balloons and made an honorary lap around the track, to the luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m., the baseball field at Payson High School was alive with activity.

"We had people of all ages who were cancer survivors, as young as 8 years old," said Tory Ferrari, who coordinated the cancer survivor segment of the program. "It was very moving to see these people willing to go out there as a walking testimony and to give hope to other people."

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