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Relay for Life exceeds $257,000 mark

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When it comes to the annual Lancaster County Relay for Life, Pat Ray likes to use the event here as a blueprint for others to follow.

There's just one problem, said Ray, regional director of the American Cancer Society.

"It wouldn't work," said Ray, who came to Lancaster on Thursday night for the Relay for Life wrap-up celebration at First ARP Church.

Members of the 48 teams participating in this year's event learned their work had raised $257,316.

That's $72,316 more than the $185,000 goal. And that total is still climbing, said Kimberly Gulledge, community field manager for the South Atlantic Division of the American Red Cross. The money will be used to fund cancer research, along with cancer awareness and wellness programs.

"There's no way to lay out a business plan for what you do here with everyone talking about how hard times are," Ray said. "You have a great town that all of you should be proud of. Don't talk to me about the economy – Lancaster overrides all those theories."

Local Relay coordinator Donna Parsons said more than 200 local cancer survivors took part in this year's event, including the annual survivor's dinner.

Teams were presented banners that can be displayed during next year's Relay for Life walk, which culminates the almost year-long fundraising effort. Teams will begin working on the 2009 Relay for Life in September.

Parsons also talked about the involvement of the county's young people in making this year's Relay for Life a success. She said that was something that local Relay for Life leadership team had been hoping for.

"For the first time ever, we had 100 percent participation by every county school," Parsons said. "These students raised more than $60,000 and that's something all of us can proud of."

Two of those schools – A.R. Rucker Middle and Andrew Jackson Middle – combined to raise almost $25,000 because of a friendly wager.

AJMS computer teacher Chris Timmons and A.R. Rucker Middle School Principal Phillip Mickles had a $20 bet as to which school could raise the most.

A.R. Rucker barely won (by about $85), meaning Timmons must pay up by treating Mickles to dinner at Los Mariachis.

Timmons was a gracious loser as the two educators shook hands and ribbed each other before Mickles walked off with the traveling trophy that goes to the school that raised the most funds.

The big winner was the relay coffers.

The Rucker team exceeded its 2007 total by a little more than $8,500, while the AJ Middle team raised $12,000 in its first year.

Timmons said the bet was worth it and one he was glad to lose. He's confident the AJMS team will turn the tables next year.

"It was all in fun and all done for a good cause," he said.

Parsons told the teams that working together for a common goal is making the difference.

"When someone talks to me about Relay, I'm always enthusiastic," she said. "And it's because of all of you."

Contact features editor Greg Summers at gsummers@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1156