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Tillsonburg Relay for Life raises $70,000

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Darryl Carter was a man on a mission Friday night at the 15th annual Tillsonburg Relay for Life.

Carter, who was keeping track of his laps at Memorial Park, had reached 91 but planned to keep pushing forward.

"I'm going to stop at 100 - I've got a ride coming at 10:30 p.m."

At 10:25 p.m., he had 97 laps, and soon after celebrated his 100th lap.

"I miss the old one," said Carter, recalling previous Relays at Annandale School. "This is smaller - I kind of miss the bigger track.

"It's a smaller crowd this year," he added. "Some people say 'it's every year' but we still need it (fundraising). At the end of the day, it adds up."

And after adding up fundraising totals Friday night, as of the midnight closing ceremonies, Tillsonburg's Relay for Life had raised $70,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.

"You came to Relay tonight because you care," said Jared Pettman, Master of Ceremonies, during closing ceremonies. "You wanted to help the Canadian Cancer Society help countless people fight cancer in our community. Maybe you Relay because you're battling cancer yourself, or because you survived. Maybe you Relay because you remember someone you lost. Maybe you Relay because you want to see the end of cancer... No matter why you decided to accept the baton tonight, you've helped us change lives - and save lives.

"Tonight you've raised an incredible amount of money. And we know that more will come in over the next month as we finish up the fundraising, taking us the total even higher."

Thankful for every donation, the Canadian Cancer Society recognized the top fundraiser at Friday's Relay for Life. Individuals were Margaret McCrimmon (more than $1,000), Andrea Harley (more than $1,400) and Deb Austin ($1,562).

Relay co-chairperson Jami Stephenson also noted the Top 3 team fundraisers - Tillsonburg Rotary Club (more than $2,800), People First ($4,318), and ECI ($7,371).

"Incredible," said Stephenson. "The Canadian Cancer Society is going to use those dollars that you've raised to fund Canada's most promising research and clinical trial. And to help ease the burden that families face in their fight against cancer through local services such as the Wheels of Hope transportation. On behalf of the thousands of lives you will touch... thank you.

"We also need to thank our generous sponsors again... as well as our amazing organizing committee and our incredible volunteers. Thank you all so very much. It's been an absolute pleasure to be your host this evening - I hope everyone had a great time and will join us again next year.

"Remember those luminaries, remember those batons, and remember the feeling of accomplishment that you feel right now. Because we don't just fight cancer one day a year, we do it every day. And we need your help. Please visit cancer.ca to find out how you can get involved and remember... next year we need volunteers. So don't be shy."

Some major contributors, helping Tillsonburg's Relay surpass $2.5 million over the years, included ECI, who raised $70,889 in 11 years; ABC Team raised $117,000 in 15 years; and Fernlea Flowers $80,000. Eastwood Manufacturing, a current presenting sponsor, has raised $68,000.

Andrea and Henry 'Hank' Harley were both longtime supporters of Tillsonburg's Relay for Life going back to its first in 2002.

"We walked with the Rotary team because he was a Rotarian," said Andrea, who formed a family team Tillsonburg's 15th annual Relay after Hank passed away Feb. 2nd, 2016 at the age of 73. "We're still with the Rotary team, but we kind of formed our own team."

Glen Harley, Hank's son, walked in his first Relay Friday night at Memorial Park, joined by his kids, his sisters, and their families, 10 in total.

"It's awesome," said Glen.

"There's a lot who aren't here tonight, who know we're here," said Andrea.

Their team T-shirts came in three varieties. One had a photo of Hank, 'I'm Walking in Memory of Henry Harley'... another with the words 'Team Harley, Walking For Henry Harley - Trevor Smith, Eugene Rodriguez, Mary Anne Johnson, Ruth Shantz, Pat Cassidy.' The catch, however, was the writing was in reverse. Some wore their T-shirts inside-out for easier reading.

"You have to look in the mirror to see this," explained a team member.

"It's a riddle," another smiled.

"Only the 'smart' people can read this," another laughed.

Andrea said she planned to stay until closing ceremonies which were scheduled to begin at 11:45 p.m., following live music by local band Back to the 50s.

"Are you planning to stay until midnight?" she asked Glen.

"I'm staying till you leave," he nodded.

"Ok, midnight it is."

The event itself also transitioned in 2016, changing locations from Annandale School to Memorial Park near the Tillsonburg Community Centre.

"It's a lot smaller," said Andrea. "Much smaller this year. But I raised more money this year than any year, and I guess it's because of Hank."

"It's been 15 years for us," said Dianne Parnell, who has walked in the Tillsonburg Relay for Life with Ken Parnell, a cancer survivor, since its inception, starting with a Hickory Hills team.

And what keeps them coming back?

"It must be the food," Ken smiled at the food pavilion. "And to hear the stories."

"We compare notes," nodded Heather Dunsmore. "Give encouragement. We get lots of information, especially for the next phase of treatment or whatever."

"A very moving speaker tonight," noted Dianne.

"It's for the cause," said Dunsmore. "It's such a wicked disease... that we have to cure it."

The Parnells and Dunsmore and friends agreed it was a different experience at Memorial Park.

"I like the venue here," said Dianne. "It's very well done."

"It's a different tone, a different feel," said Dunsmore.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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