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Area residents raise money, awareness for cancer with Relay for Life

May 12, 2011 at 12:12 a.m.

Jenna Lynch, 15, and Avery Bartay, 5, watch a drag show at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event before Avery's father James Bartay, right, took the stage as Marilyn Monroe on April 29 at Coleto Creek Reservoir.  Several thousand people participated in this year's Relay for Life to raise money for cancer research and healthcare.

One man's efforts almost 26 years ago hasn't gone unnoticed.

In fact, it's so well known that every year about 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities across the United States participate.

It's the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

And in the Crossroads, it has helped several thousand families fight back against cancer with one weapon - hope.

"This is why we do it," said Nancy Hillis, community manager for the area American Cancer Society.

The Crossroads Chapter of the American Cancer Society organized the Victoria County Relay for Life on April 29, which is near the end of the society's long string of relays.

With the Victoria County event finished, it now prepares to enter its 16th year, Hillis said.

The community's efforts has been one long, impactful relay, she said.

"This is a giving area," Hillis said. "South Texas is amazing."

Hillis started with the society three years ago and has seen it grow just in that short time.

Her first year was the last time Victoria County had its event at the high school stadium track.

"We outgrew it," she said.

Victoria County was the first to host a relay and shortly after, Refugio and Calhoun counties had relays.

Now, the society's office, with only three people, oversees 13 counties.

Hillis worked tirelessly at the Victoria County event at the beginning of the weekend and at the end, was readying for Matagorda County's relay.

She had gotten little sleep.

"This is what it's all about," she said.

Ceci Oldmixon, the event chair for Victoria County, has been a part of the relays for about eight years and has seen the relays continue to grow.

"Like most, it started off small, but it's grown exponentially," she said.

Aside from the relays, which begin in September, the local society chapter also helps people with resources.

The money raised goes to research, but it also goes to immediate needs, like wigs and prostheses. Programs for transportation and other indirect cancer-related issues is also available.

If the office does not have the information available, they know someone who does, she said.

"We don't carry everything," she said.

This year, Hillis was surprised by the smaller counties, like Calhoun County, which raised more than $100,000.

And in Goliad, she was elated to see that most of the committee was made up not of adults, but youth.

"These people they give so much of themselves," she said. "It's nice to be part of that."

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