Goal reached at ACS 13th Annual Relay For Life of Moniteau County

Cancer survivor Katie Imler, 21, shares her battle with cancer during the opening ceremony of the Relay For Life of Moniteau County Friday.

Cancer survivor Katie Imler, 21, shares her battle with cancer during the opening ceremony of the Relay For Life of Moniteau County Friday. Photo by April Arnett.

The American Cancer Society 13th Annual Relay For Life of Moniteau County was held Friday through 2 a.m. Saturday at the Moniteau County Fairgrounds, California, where, in the end, the overall fundraising goal was met.

"Our goal was $65,000, and we raised over $68,000," Relay Chairperson Rae Ann Shackleford said. "By the closing ceremony Saturday morning we had $65,170.30, but we've had more money turned in since then, from team raffles and online donations, which got us to $68,000."

All proceeds will go toward the fight against cancer.

The theme for this year's Relay was "Dream Big...Hope Big...Relay Big."

The ACS Relay For Life is a celebration of cancer survivorship and a way to raise much-needed funds to help find a cure for cancer. Each year, approximately 4 million people in over 20 countries raise funds and awareness through the Relay For Life movement to fight cancer and save lives.

Participating teams raise funds throughout the year leading up to the Relay For Life, where each team hosts fundraising activities at their site, including a variety of food and items for sale, with all proceeds going toward their team goal as well as the Relay For Life of Moniteau County overall goal.

Shackleford, a cancer survivor, said, "I want to thank all of our planning committee members, relay team members, volunteers and local and area businesses for supporting our Relay. I was pleased with participation, though our crowd attendance was down. It's disheartening to not have a big turnout from the community."

While a total of 11 teams participated in this year's Relay, the Turkey Trotters led in fundraising. California Girls followed in second place.

"California Girls raised over $10,000," Shackleford said. "This is the first time they've reached that level."

In third place was Christina's Breast Friends Forever (BFFs).

In the opening ceremony of the Relay, sponsors, members of the Planning Committee, and fundraisers of over $1000 were recognized.

Each year a cancer survivor is featured as the guest speaker at the Relay. Katie Imler, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma two years ago, at the age of 19, was the featured speaker Friday night. She recalled finding a strange lump in her neck and the day her doctor told her she had cancer.

"I didn't cry when Dr. Marty told me what was wrong with me," Imler said. "I just wanted to know how I could get better."

She recalled telling her siblings. "It really hurts to see your loved ones cry, especially when it's you causing their pain. I was afraid they would see me as broken, instead of the strong person I'd always tried to be for them."

She added, "After that, I felt like I did what I needed to do, I had my sad moment, and now it was time to get me better. I met with Dr. Tamera Hopkins, who turned out to be an amazing doctor who really connects with her patients and is there for them."

Imler had surgery to have part of her hip removed, four months of chemotherapy, and 20 days of radiation.

She said losing her hair was tougher than she anticipated. "The night my mom shaved my head I laid in bed realizing my hair was really gone and cancer was really happening to me. I cried more than I'd like to admit. It wasn't just because it was my hair, it was because I had always had my hair and it was pretty and I thought it was what made me beautiful - and now it was gone."

Looking back, Imler said losing her hair actually helped her learn to enjoy the smaller things in life and to never take anything for granted. "I learned to love every part of me. All of it made me beautiful."

In closing, Imler said, "Now at the age of 21 I'm healthy as can be. I stand proud as a cancer survivor and am always willing to share my story. Many have told me God only puts on us what He knows we can handle, and I completely believe that. He knows how much I can handle without breaking and He knows I will use this experience, my experience, to help others."

Cancer survivors were recognized and the Survivor Lap and Caregiver Lap followed.

Then members of the relay teams took to the track for the remainder of the event. Colossdal Sounds provided music throughout the night.

Debra Smulders was ultimately voted Most Spirited Relayer, while The Bakers Dozen won the Best Decorated Campsite contest. Christina's BFFs was the winner of the Parade of Teams.

The Queen Of Relay winner was the Turkey Trotters' contestant. (Which is won by the contestant who raises the most at the Relay.)

Selected as the "People's Choice Queen" was the Bakers Dozen contestant, who was crowned "Miss Grade A".

Once again, the Relay For Life of Moniteau County was a success as funds were raised to fight cancer, and participants had the opportunity to come together to support a good cause while having a good time.

Shackleford said the "wrap-up" meeting will be held at 6 p.m. July 16 at the Annunciation Catholic Church, California. "This is for committee and team members, as well as anyone who is interested in joining the planning committee for next year's Relay."

For more information about the ACS Relay For Life, got to RelayForLife.org.

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