The Cottengim twins were not the only fifth graders at Vandora Springs Elementary School painting chairs as art-projects-turned-fundraiser. But they have a firmer, more tangible grasp on why than most of their classmates.
The Chairs of Hope auction Thursday, along with events around the area, set the stage for Friday’s Relay for Life, the national American Cancer Society fundraiser that has thrived in Garner, thanks in large part to the efforts of the twins’ mother, Jill Cottengim, a cancer survivor who has long-organized the event.
The event will be held at Lake Benson Park on Friday starting at 4 p.m. with some activities for survivors and with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. It will last into Saturday morning with a luminaries ceremony and kid’s walk at 9 a.m. and closing ceremonies at 10 a.m.
Thursday is “Paint the Town Purple” day where the event’s signature color will be found everywhere in Garner from ribbons on mailboxes to the clothes people wear.
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Last Thursday art teacher Jim Hunt’s students auctioned dozens of vibrantly-painted wooden seats at his annual “Chairs of Hope” event at the school, which raises thousands each year for Relay and raised $2,400 this year.
Garner raised more than $170,000 for cancer research at last year’s Relay for Life through dozens of teams run by churches, civic groups and businesses. Cottengim has co-chaired the event since she and another survivor started it in 1998; since then it has raised more than $2 million. So far this year about 55 teams have raised around $90,000 through efforts leading up to the event.
The Garner Magnet High School English teacher’s daughters this year got to pitch in with Hunt’s annual project, which involved kids spending time after school and on weekends painting their chairs.
“Some might have done it not knowing what they were doing it for but I did know,” Logan Cottengim said.
Her twin Laney agreed.
The two also echoed enjoyment of the process – getting to hang out with friends after school and on weekends – that was expressed by other classmates.
“It was fun. Hanging with friends after school,” said Samirria Tucker, who added that the cause motivated them to put care into their work. “We wanted to do more detail so we could get more money.”
Others liked the chance to be creative.
“I liked that you could do what you wanted to decorate the chair how you wanted,” said Mikayla Hawley. “And that all the money was going to a good cause.”
Parents and other community members wandered around through the chairs – mostly painted by children, but also a few painted by adults including Hunt – and wrote down bids next to their name.