Volunteers learn how to raise funds to fight cancer

By Tonya Parker Morrison

Globe Staff Writer

Betty Labigang still remembers the day cancer claimed the life of her sister. Diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago, Labigang's sister died in her arms.

The irony was that three years earlier, it was Labigang's sister that helped her overcome a battle with esophageal cancer. While she lost her voice, Labigang beat death.

Labigang drove from her home in Miami, Okla., to attend an American Cancer Society's Relay for Life rally held Saturday at Missouri Southern State College. She was among 90 volunteers from 15 counties that gathered to learn how to raise money for the cause. As she put her finger over the hole in her throat, a battle scar from her bout with the disease, she was more concerned about what lies ahead for other cancer victims than the future of her own health.

"Making money for cancer research is my favorite part of the Relay for Life. I want, not for me, but because of my sister, I just feel like they have got to find a cure for cancer."

Last year, the Joplin Relay for Life - a fund-raiser where teams of volunteers walk nonstop for a specified number of hours - raised $90,000 to help fund cancer research. American Cancer Society public relations specialist Kym Davis drove from Springfield to help train the volunteers to raise even more money next year.

"The goal today was just to make sure people learned about the Relay For Life program, which is why we have our committee members here. The Joplin office has seven or eight staff members who seek out volunteers and then we train them to put on their own Relay for Life in their county."

No amount of money will bring back Janet Mayhew's father, Charles Bloomcamp, but the Coffeyville, Kan., resident said she is hoping Relay for Life will raise enough money to ultimately find a cure.

She initially volunteered for the American Cancer Society's Look Good, Feel Better program, which provides cancer patients with wigs, prosthesis and turbans, as well as makeup tips. The licensed cosmetologist then found out about Relay for Life through a committee member and decided to sign up.

"I knew it was something that I had to do. I feel very passionate about it because if we don't have research money, we'll never find a cure," said Mayhew.

Davis said raising awareness is "up there" with raising money to find a cure.

"The biggest misconception is that it will happen to someone else," Davis said. "But cancer does not discriminate, it comes to every ethnic group, every religious group, all across the globe. People need to take preventative measures and go for cancer screenings regularly and take it more seriously. Don't wait until it's too late."

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