The seventh annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Somervell County was nothing short of being a success as participants stuck to this year’s theme: Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.

Thirty-two teams from Glen Rose and Somervell County, representing local businesses, organizations and families, converged onto the soccer fields at the Glen Rose Soccer Park and began a 12-hour relay to help find a cure for cancer and support patient services through the American Cancer Society.

“I think this year’s Relay was very successful in that we had a lot of participation and because we were in a new location,” said Paula Noell, co-chair of the annual event. “People came together and we ha a lot of things donated to ensure its success.”

As of press time, more than $61,700 had been collected and Noell expects more to come in during the next few weeks.

The local Relay for Life has seen success because of the cost of the event has been very low, thanks to the generosity of area businesses and organizations. Nearly 96 percent of the money raised will go directly towards cancer research and a fund to help defray the costs of travel to treatment centers and overnight stays for individuals that are battling cancer.

The event seems to be gaining in popularity Noell says, as organizers try to come up with new ways to cater to the entire family by including games and fun things for the youth to do.

Kicking off at 6 p.m. Friday evening, the teams converged on the park and began setting up tents and other camps to make it through the night.

The first lap of the Relay, taken by the 119 cancer survivors who participated this year, had attendees cheering on those who beat the disease as they rounded the track.

Once the survivors made their way back to the starting line, the caretakers had their chance to be in the spotlight - a group of more than 50 who have stood by their partner or friend as they struggled to defeat cancer.

A sense of celebration filled the air as teams, many of which included someone who beat the disease, congratulated survivors. The fun-filled evening also included games for youth and mini fundraisers at the park to help teams reach their goals.

“At this point we don’t how much we raised but we know it’s over $60,000. We’re still tallying,” said Noell. “We had a goal of $80,000 and we still have some teams out working and teams collecting money. Our numbers will continue to grow, hopefully, because we had a very aggressive goal.”

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraising season goes until June, said Noell, adding that monies will continue to come in for quite a while.

Also taking some time is planning for a big event such as Relay for Life. The 12-hour celebration is the culmination of more than a half-year’s worth of organizing, promotion and fundraising, said Noell.

“We really kicked off for this year’s Relay in November. We had some planning in September and began to kick off our committee activities in late October,” said Noell. “You think of it now and say why was it so hard? There’s a lot of stuff to plan for.”

More than 30 individuals volunteered with the planning committee taking on tasks including logistics, registration, fundraising, survivorship and sponsorship.

Noell said that although the event was moved from Glen Rose ISD’s Tiger Stadium, everyone she talked to enjoyed the setting beneath the trees at the soccer park.

“Our logistics team, which was Matt Holder and Tommy Gibson, did a great job in planning for the change in location,” said Noell. “Matt did things to make it happen and was very resourceful because he knew the location so well.”

During the Relay, Holder was presented with this year’s “Power of Purple Award,” in honor of Kelli Nix who passed away last year just a few months before the 2007 Relay for Life.

“Kelli was a huge force in raising cancer awareness and her mother, Linda, she was very dedicated in making it all happen,” said Noell.

The support of the community and volunteers dedicated to the ACS Relay for Life is what makes the local event such a big success, said Noell.

“So many people helped and volunteered. We also had more sponsorships this year than we had in previous years, both in-kind and cash donations,” Noell said. “We received an enormous amount of support.”

Several local youth organizations participated to help with set-up and clean-up, including Glen Rose High School National Honor Society members, local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts from Troop 725, and others.

Throughout the night, participants enjoyed games and planned activities, including karaoke and tug-o-war. A local group of high school students and their band, “No Place to Play,” took the stage and attracted a nice crowd, said Noell.

“They were great and we had a lot of folks stay around to support their friends on stage,” said Noell. “The energy was high and the kids helped the adults keep on keeping on throughout the night.”

As the event wrapped up at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, the tired team members were treated to a pancake breakfast by the Glen Rose Optimist Club. More than 80 plates of flapjacks and sausage were served, giving some respite to the Relay participants after a 12-hour journey.

On May 17, the local Relay for Life committee will host an awards banquet and wrap-up event when they will announce the teams which brought in the most money, said Noell.

Funds raised through ACS Relays across the country help support local cancer patients and the fight to find a cure, said Noell. “The bulk of funds go towards cancer research and some monies are put aside in support of cancer patients, survivors and those battling cancer.”

The ACS provides such programs as Road to Recovery and transportation for patients to and from appointments for treatments.

“They have a structure that helps us get our volunteers to take patients to doctors, and others where patients can be provided supplies they need,” explained Noell. “Those who are undergoing chemotherapy and lose their hair, the ACS will provide wigs and makeup to make them more comfortable. They essentially connect patients with people who can help them, such as support groups and medical specialists.”

The ACS also provides educational material for those battling various forms of cancer and to survivors in remission.

Locally, Kelli’s Crusaders, a group of volunteers banned together to raise awareness following the young woman’s passing as a result of cancer, provided pamphlets and brochures during the Relay, said Noell.

Thanks to the many dedicated volunteers, business community and participants, this year’s Relay will continue to make strides.

“Last year our local Relay was awarded with the highest per capita earner in the North Central Texas Region,” said Noell. “I would guess we will do that again. We were significantly higher for money per person raised from the second place event.”