Organizers of Harlem's third annual Relay for Life are busy planning bigger and better fund-raisers and festivities to meet a loftier goal.
Jean Dove and Kelley Powell, event co-chairs, announced this year's $70,000 goal to some team captains and members at the kickoff event Thursday.
"We did so well last year. If we can do that and not even try, why can't we do more," said Rena Donaldson, a cancer survivor and team captain, who said she is optimistic because her team is very enthusiastic. "If we don't get it, that's okay. We'll raise as much as we can and do as much as we can."
Relay officials from the American Cancer Society helped the city set its $5,000 goal for the first relay in 2002. The event enlisted 12 teams and raised $21,000. Last year's $30,000 goal seemed too high until the 18 teams brought in more than $50,000.
The all-night event, scheduled for April 23, will include one person from each team walking throughout the night as the teams hold entertainment and activity booths to also raise money for the cause.
Teams - including Tropical Breeze, Trail Blazers, Energizer Bunnies, Shady Grove Soldiers and Ollie's Army - already have several fund-raisers in the works. Tropical Breeze team members held a wrestling event at Harlem Middle School on Saturday and have a gospel concert scheduled for April 17.
The city government's team - Ollie's Army - scheduled their second annual golf tournament for April 17 at Three Oaks Golf Course.
"It is not only a good cause, but it has turned into a great community event," Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said at the kickoff reception, where guest speakers shared stories of how cancer had impacted their lives.
Dove hopes this year's event will include lighting luminaries. Rain impeded the 2002 relay, and last year's was inside Harlem High School because of rain.
Karen McTier, whose 11-year-old daughter Katelyn was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in June 2002, shared her daughter's fight against the disease that touches one in every four Americans.
"She was so sick, but there was nothing I could do," McTier said through tears. "Kate promised to fight her hardest, not matter what she had to go through."
Katelyn was said to have a 50 percent chance of surviving the aggressive cancer that typically affects adults. She spent 152 days in the hospital enduring three rounds of chemotherapy, intensive drugs, several serious infections and fevers and brain lesions before her release in January 2003.
Katelyn recovered enough to attend the last month of fifth grade during the past school year.
"Everyone was amazed by her recovery," McTier said. "She was labeled by one of her oncologists as the Miracle Child of 2002.
"(Cancer) is very real and there are a lot of families we can help by donating to the American Cancer Society, who helps research cures for these awful diseases."
For more information or to register a team for the relay scheduled for April 23, call Dove at 556-3448.
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