Local Relay expands as countywide fundraiser

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The New Year lays the foundation for the most expansive campaign yet for Kilgore Relay for Life.

Spurring locals to raise funds for the American Cancer Society in the ongoing fight against the disease, the local Relay operation is launching its 16th initiative this month, and changes are ahead.

As of Jan. 1, longtime volunteer Teresa Anderson said, the Kilgore outreach has absorbed Longview efforts and has become Relay for Life – Gregg County.

Meanwhile, “American Cancer Society has relaxed some of the guidelines on us,” she said, giving local organizers the freedom to customize efforts within their communities.

It’s good timing, Anderson said: the national campaign was founded by Dr. Gordy Klatt in 1985 and Kilgore’s was established by Dr. Opal Stewart in 2002-2003. After so many years of work, both were in need of a boost to maintain momentum.

“After doing it 17 years, you’re kind of tired of doing the same old thing,” Anderson acknowledged. Adopting the theme ‘Relay Your Way,’ ACS “told us to look at what we thought would work best in our area and what we felt like we could handle.”

The local Relay’s new American Cancer Society staff partner is Sara Allen.

“I’m excited about the new challenge ahead of merging together and building Gregg County as a whole,” Allen said. “I’m excited about working with an all-new group of people. 

“They seem really excited about the possibilities and the changes.”

In Gregg County, the 2018 Relay year begins Jan. 15 with the Kilgore Taste Off. The fundraiser’s set for 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. that Monday night at First Baptist Church of Kilgore (501 E. North St.). 

Kilgore Relay volunteers are shooting for about 15 restaurants on-site, each contributing food for visitors. The smorgasbord will be $10 per plate, and guests will receive a ballot to vote on their favorite restaurant.

“We’ve had a pretty good turnout with the restaurants so far. I’m excited that they’re coming,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping to have a least 300 people. We’ll have information for survivors and caregivers; we’ll have luminarias for sale.”

Those are the populations, in particular, that ACS wants local campaigns to spotlight in their efforts throughout the year. Relay for Life – Gregg County is putting much of that focus in a ‘Kilgore Light Fest’ developing for Saturday, April 21, at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

According to Anderson, working with co-organizers Jennifer Quine and Jennifer Utzman, the gates will likely open about 7:30 p.m. that night. Relay’s signature, lighted luminarias will be available for purchase then (and in advance) to honor cancer fighters, victims, survivors and caregivers.

“About 8:45 p.m. as it’s starting to get dark we’ll have a short program on the history of Relay for Life, what it’s all about,” Anderson said, “just to take time to really celebrate the survivors and those we’ve lost to cancer.

“Our goal is to have a really, really nice luminaria event. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. That’s a really awesome ceremony if you really take the time and do it right.”

Locally, Relay for Life – Gregg County is keeping the ‘Paint Your World Purple’ theme of recent years and will be encouraging fundraising teams to spread the color throughout the community. In addition to the central Relay events, volunteer teams hold numerous fundraisers throughout the year to contribute to the monetary target. 

“We’re shooting for $50,000,” Anderson said. While the central group focuses on planning the Taste Off, light fest and a third event in Longview, “We’re leaving a lot of team events up to their own fundraising. We realized we couldn’t handle everything ourselves.

“We’ve got things working, and it’s coming together.”

For more information about Relay for Life – Gregg County, to make a contribution or sign-up a fundraising team, log on to relayforlife.org/greggsouthtx, call 1-800-227-2345 or email rflkilgore@gmail.com.

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