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Shortened relay expecting to reach $70K goal




It was a night to celebrate, remember and fight back, but most of all it was a night of hope.

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It was a night to celebrate, remember and fight back, but most of all it was a night of hope.

"I am hope," was the theme of the Ellis County Relay for Life on Friday night at the Hays Middle School track.

Dr. Anne O'Dea, oncologist at Hays Medical Center's Breast Care Center, was the featured speaker.

A rainbow of T-shirts -- purple, yellow, turquoise, green and white -- signified survivors, committee members, team captains, volunteers and participants who walked the track for the opening lap.

Balloons were released as the survivors and their caregivers met halfway around the track.

From that point on, each team was required to have at least one member walking except during the luminary ceremony.

Nationally, the relay started as a 24-hour event, but in Ellis County it's always been just 12 hours from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., said Lonny Claycamp, who co-chaired the event with his wife, Becky.

This year, though, it's part of a pilot program for a shortened version -- from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The committee recruited teams from a number of businesses, and 20 teams participated, six more than last year, Claycamp said.

"I know it's helped doing the closing ceremony at midnight," he said. "We've raised as much money as we did last year."

Claycamp expected to reach the $70,000 goal, but totals won't be calculated until after a golf tournament Friday, followed by a Stars and Stripes breakfast Saturday at the VFW.

Claycamp said he's been involved with the relay for quite a few years, even before being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 2008.

"It kind of hit home why I was involved. By February of '09, we had mine in remission, and I could see the benefit of all this technology that's going to the American Cancer Society advancing it."

He's just one of a number of volunteers who work to make the event successful.

Mary Ann Randa has been volunteering for 12 years, helping set up for the event, putting the track signs together and setting up the survivors' tent.

She's also a member of a team. Through the year, the Insurance Planning team sponsors a concession stand, barbecue and jean day at work, as well as a basket for the basket auction at the relay.

Cammi Dickinson, a nurse practitioner, served as the team captain for the Dreiling/Schmidt Cancer Institute Caregivers team.

"We see these patients every day in the clinic, and it's nice to see them out here and support them. They're really special people," she said.

Members of Ellis County 4-H clubs have volunteered for a number of years to fill the luminary bags with sand.

"The kids enjoy it," said Donna Maskus, Ellis County 4-H volunteer. "It's a good community event."