A total of 25 teams organized for this year's rally at the end of a year-long effort to raise money for cancer research and support of services for those battling cancer. The groups set up 22 campsites around the main field of the park, inside the walking trail used for laps throughout the evening.
"Overall, we were down on attendance," said Jennifer Cendroski, co-chairperson with Betty Messer, "much of which I attribute to the weather. Overall, I think the evening was definitely a success."
Temperatures, which had be up to 80 earlier in the week, were in the 60s on Friday and dipped into the 40s overnight, making this year one of the chilliest for a Relay night.
"We'd expected a larger turnout," Cendroski said. "Not as many survivors came because of the cold. Still, we have a lot of new teams. They did an awesome job and really enjoyed themselves."
"We're here in Monett tonight, doing what other Relayers do in 5,000 communities across America and in 20 other countries," said Messer during the opening ceremony. "By walking this track this weekend, you are joining forces with nearly four million people worldwide who want to save lives and create a world with more birthdays."
The birthday theme, coinciding with the 65th anniversary of the American Cancer Society under that name, served as an unofficial theme for the event. Many teams used birthday cakes, candles and streamers to decorate their campsites.
The opening ceremony included the National Anthem, sung by cancer survivor Joyce Neumann with harmony by Mark Johnson, and an opening prayer by Father Jaroslaw "Jarek" Skrzypek, priest at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. Shelby Linahan, a teacher at Central Park Elementary School who is presently undergoing cancer treatments, offered words of encouragement about her progress, leading up to the opening lap of the evening.
Cancer survivors, led by a color guard from the Junior ROTC program at the Southwest Area Career Center, walked around the track and received applause from the crowd along the sidelines. Caregivers, past and present, joined in for the second lap, followed by team groupings as the evening routine began.
"The economy and nature of fundraising is not easy now," Cendroski said. "A lot of people stepped up. We had more people who raised at least $1,000 than we had last year."
Sixteen people hit the $1,000 mark before Relay night and 10 more reached the mark through fundraising efforts on the grounds.
Those who reached the fundraising milestone were: top fundraiser Tammy Steelman, Michelle Crim, Angie Rinker, Tawnya Brooks, Brian Hirsch, Colette Gilmore, Beth Luebbering, Anna Frank, Ashley Alford, Jennifer Cendroski, Helen Ruscha, Karen Smith, Tiffany Tallent, Brenda Woods, Tim Larmer, Betty Messer, Rebecca Schallert, Emily Buchholz, Christina Littleton, Tony Littleton Jr., Mark Mcmillin, Stephen McMillin, Monica O'Flaherty and Jennifer Schallert.
Winners were named in a wide range of activities throughout the evening. The top team for fundraising was Tyson Foods' Crowin' for a Cure. Andy Hubbert from the top Tyson team walked the most laps by an individual. Central Park Elementary took the award for most laps walked by a team.
IM4ACure won honors for both the appetizer and dessert in the food contest. Joker's Wild won for best entree. Monett Elementary was named best campsite.
The basket auction raised $2,006. Of the more than 20 entries, five were popular enough to go to live auction instead of the silent auction sale.
There were seven entries in the Relay Queen contest. Ethel Eimer from IM4ACure took home honors as top fundraiser. Candidates wore a wide range of costumes from formal gowns and hats to a Marilyn Monroe "look-alike" from the Warriors of Hope team.
The fundraising total by the end of Relay had reached $84,306.70. The record of more than $120,000 is still held by the 2008 Relay.
"We've seen what works in fundraising change over the past year," Cendroski said. "Next year, we'll take what we learned and move forward. It will be easier."