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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Relay raises awareness and support

Monday, October 1, 2007  
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By Kimberly Sikes

In November of 2005, Kim Gaither passed away after a long struggle with breast cancer. The next year, her daughter Brianna Gaither started a new service project as National Honor Society President at Oklahoma Christian Academy. This year, Gaither is in charge of the Oklahoma Christian chapter of the Relay for Life project she started last year.

“It’s a pretty big step down from last year because last year I was the chairman of the entire event, but it’s an Oklahoma Christian Academy event, so I couldn’t have that kind of position this year,” Gaither said. “The biggest thing I could do this year is manage the OC chapter of the relay. I’m OC chairman with Morgan Nash.”

Gaither actually started this Relay for Life event as an annual service project for OCA’s National Honor Society.

“We really wanted to add a service project, and we wanted to do something really great,” Gaither said. “There were people there at OCA who really loved my mom and there are people here who really love Mom and we wanted something that would get into the community and would also raise money for that cause and to have a lot of fun and do it in memory of her.”

Gaither had participated in Relay for Life events twice before, and decided it would be a good service project to add.

“We decided to hold a first annual Relay for Life,” Gaither said. “We decided the best place to hold it would be [Oklahoma Christian] because people knew her here. This was such a big part of her life that this seemed like the place that would be the best and that people would get most involved on this campus.”

This year, the event is taking place on Oct. 5 and 6 from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

At a Relay for Life event, participants form teams which raise money for cancer research. Participants may walk in memory of or in honor of a friend who has struggled with cancer. These names are put on luminarias that light the walking track.

A member of each team is on the track at all times. The only time the track is empty is from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. At this time, there is a ceremony recognizing those who have suffered or are suffering from cancer.

At the end of the ceremony, all the names on the luminarias are read out loud. After all the names are read, everyone participating completes a lap around the track together in silence.

Entertainment at this year’s event will include performances by the Summer Singers and New Reign. Gaither herself will also be performing some original songs with a friend.

This event is a big undertaking and includes many challenges for those who are working to make it happen.

“Physically and emotionally there are so many things that go into it. This is a new job for me that I’m keeping track of all the teams and what’s been most difficult is not having faces with names,” Gaither said. “You have people calling you all the time, but it’s really hard to keep track of who’s called you and what their problem was and what they need without having a face on it.”

Working on and participating in Relay for Life is a rewarding experience for all involved. It not only helps people by funding research, but it also helps by showing emotional support for those effected.

“[Relay for Life is] such a good cause and it raises so much money for research. It also honors people who are struggling with cancer,” Gaither said. “This is their life, people who are dealing with cancer and this is daily. Every single day they deal with this. This is a way for us and for them to come out and do a lap and say ‘we’re supporting you, we want to help you; we want to raise money for the cause that you deal with.’”

It is an active way for those who have dealt with problems from cancer to feel they are working in their community.

“For those who have lost, such as me, they can go and feel like they’re doing something, and not just sitting and doing anything about the experiences that they’ve gone through,” Gaither said.

It is much more than a way to raise money for cancer research.

“It’s also to give people an insight into other people’s lives. For example, people who have never dealt with cancer, never known anyone who’s dealt with cancer, it’s a way for them to get involved to understand,” Gaither said. “Especially since it’s a Christian organization held on a Christian Campus, we’re able to bring the Holy Spirit into the workings of this process. We’re able to very openly portray the love of Christ through this event.”

Even those who are not part of a team are encouraged to come out and show their support. The $10 entry fee also goes toward funding cancer research.

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