Garner’s Relay for Life event drew several hundred people out to Garner Magnet High School’s football stadium Sunday, about five weeks after rain forced cancellation of the original event at Lake Benson Park.
The event represented an event scaled back in hours, teams, participants and attendees but not in terms of meaning for many of the attendees.
“We’ll be out here every year,” said Ricky Harris, who has lost a friend to cancer and counts his mother and grandmother among survivors.
Relay for LIfe, a Garner constant for 16 years, has raised $143,0000 from various teams as of Sunday, according to organizer and longtime chair Jill Cottengim. The event raised more than $170,000 last year, and has raised more than $2 million over the years for cancer research. The Garner Relay for Life efforts can continue to raise funds until Aug. 1.
While scaled back, the event did generate revenue and draw a crowd. Garner High formerly hosted the Relay before the crowds swelled and outgrew the football stadium. Typically the event runs from an evening into a morning with people camping out. Sunday the event ran from early afternoon to about 9 p.m., with the characteristic luminaries those affected by cancer lit before it became completely dark.
Cottengim didn’t know how many people had come through the stadium, but estimated that in the early afternoon, the largest crowds may have reached 800 to 1,000.
“I was hoping we’d bring in at least $10,000. And we did,” Cottengim said of the re-do. “I am very happy. It’s a great community event.”
Alice Koch, a cancer survivor for eight years who has attended each of the last six Garner Relays, said the group has to roll with the punches thrown its way.
“I’m a little bit disappointed that there wasn’t more of the community out, but it’s been good,” Koch said. “Once (rained out) in 16 years, you can’t complain about that.”
Karen King, volunteered to work the food booth operated by St. Andrews United Methodist Church. St. Andrews, like many vendors, had prepared a lot of food that couldn’t be sold in April. Unlike many of those groups, they put together a reduced-menu (no crawfish etouffee this year) and made it out a second time.
“It’s obviously less than it would have been, even the rainy night in April,” King said. “But the people who are here are enthusiastic.”
Cottengim said some teams told her that they had made more money than they had at night, and cautioned against characterizing the crowd as markedly smaller, but with clearly fewer vendors
Lori Webb has been helping Cottengim from the beginning. She said it went as well as could be expected.
“I think we had a great turnout,” Webb said.