Community Service Strikes A Chord With Relay For Life Organizer

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When someone laughs, heartily and sincerely, as they tell you the story of how their house nearly burnt to the ground just 5 months ago, you can pretty much rest assured that they have a healthy sense of humor.

Becky Acord has a very healthy sense of humor.

Because of that, and an Energizer smile that keeps going and going and going and going, some folks might think Acord is an unlikely person to organize something so serious as the Fourth Annual Relay for Life.

They'd be wrong. It's a perfect fit, because the only thing bigger than Acord's grin, is the heart that she pours into her favorite cause.

Payson's version of the Relay for Life is part of the American Cancer Society's national fund-raiser that last year raised more than $160 million for research, advocacy, local programs and services and education.

For 2002, this all-night race will take place June 7 and 8 at Rumsey Park.

Teams of folks from corporations, civic groups, schools and families take turns in the event, with one team member at a time walking, strolling or jogging around the track all through the night and into the next day.

"What's wonderful is all of the different age groups which participate," Acord said. "Last year we had the whole Oran Shear family. Oran had been a Gila County deputy, and he'd contracted lung cancer. He had 10 daughters, and all 10 showed up from all over the country with their children and spouses. Oran succumbed six months later. But this year, all of the daughters and their families are going to gather en mass again.

"You look at the children who are being educated through this event, and that's one of the most magnificent things that happens: early education," Acord said. "Those kids are the ones who are going to continue on and serve all of us."

Acord vows that she can cry as easily as she can laugh. If nonbelievers want proof, she adds, all they need to do is watch her during the relay's opening ceremony.

"Last year, when all the luminaries were lit up, and all those families gathered together, and the names of those who died of cancer in the previous year were read, and the bagpipes played ... It was just incredible to share that moment of grief and memory and loss," Acord said. "I was crying, even though I didn't know most of those whose names were read. But I could see what kind of families they created. That said a lot about those people."

That says a lot about Becky Acord, too.

Born in Provo, Utah, and raised in Page, Ariz., Acord moved on, she said, "the minute I was old enough to leave the house, get out of that small town and move to the Valley."

At one point near this period in her life exactly 20 years ago Acord married her longtime boyfriend, Dennis, with whom she now has two children: 17-year-old son Nate and 15-year-old daughter Emilie.

It was for her children, Acord said, that she and her husband decided to move to Payson nine years ago five years before the Relay for Life entered her life.

"I actually got started in the relay because I couldn't say no," she admitted with a self-deprecating laugh. "But then I went to a seminar about the American Cancer Society and I was amazed to find out what that organization has done. I mean, they've given grants to about 14 cancer researchers who went on to win Pulitzer Prizes. And they do so much locally, too. I can actually say I'm very proud to work for them."

Although no one in Acord's family has been affected by the disease, "the number of cancer patients I see in my job (customer liaison for Preferred Homecare) just stuns me. And I have a neighbor who is having a horrible, horrible time with cancer. I would like to eliminate that kind of suffering. That's my goal to eliminate the suffering and to help find a cure so nobody has to go through it again."

Acord is working to recruit new teams for the Relay for Life.

"All you need to do is to get eight to 15 people together," she said. "Everybody pitches in $10, which covers the cost of their T-shirts and some of the other expenses we come across, so that the money raised by the event actually goes to the American Cancer Society. And then you raise money as a team, or as individuals, for the American Cancer Society."

To sign up your team, or for more information, call Becky Acord at 474-6293 or 472-8222.

Name: Becky Acord

Occupation: Customer Liaison

Employer: Preferred Homecare

Age: 38

Birthplace: Provo, Utah

Family: Husband Dennis; son Nate, 17; daughter Emilie, 15.

Personal motto: "A smile is contagious. Let's infect the world!"

Inspiration: My husband for his gentleness, leadership and the sacrifices he's made for his family; my son for his self-motivation and discipline; and my daughter for her determination and empathy.

Greatest feat: It will be to survive the Teen Years.

My favorite hobby or leisure activity is ... Making stained glass.

The three words that describe me best are ... Compassionate, funny and loyal.

I don't want to brag, but ... I work for a wonderful company.

The person in history I'd most like to meet is ... Eleanor Roosevelt.

Luxury defined: Early-morning coffee, sitting outside and smelling the fresh, clean air.

Dream vacation spot: Lake Powell on a houseboat.

Why Payson? A small community where people care about each other is the best place to raise a family. Payson has so many wonderful people who have the character traits I want my children to develop.

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