The following is an article submitted by Debi Golebiewski, co-chairman of the Lee County Relay for Life, about the harrowing experience Relay faced Friday night when a severe thunderstorm blew through Saltillo's city park and the region. I was at Relay, and it was a scary moment for all of us who took shelter in the community center. You know something was wrong when Kevin Russell, the radio personality and Relay co-chairman, got on the mic at the park about 6 p.m. telling the teams to tear down their tents because the storm was on its way.
Lee County Relay For Life Successful Although Hindered by Storm
By Debi Golebiewski
If you were not in attendance at the Lee County Relay for Life on Friday, June 12, 2009, you have no idea the experience we shared. The emotions raced from lows to highs but the event was a success. Shortly after everyone began gathering at the park for the Relay for Life, horrendous storms and winds blew through the area. (Photo of clouds over city park before the storm hit). The tents were destroyed, the luminaries blew away along with money, people were drenched and feelings were hurt. All of the hard work the teams had done, organizing their tents and working on their fundraiser projects was gone with a quick whoosh of strong wind! The event was moved to the inside of the Community Center (what could be salvaged) and as they say in showbiz, “the show must go on," and it did.
Without allowing the storms to stop the show, the gospel concert inside the community center went on without missing a beat. Everyone who stayed for the duration of the event was blessed with some wonderful music, food and fun that seemed to make a bad situation turn good.
Although, with the terrible weather and the winds taking away some of the money, we fell short of our goal, we still had a wonderful relay and received a true blessing. The luminary ceremony seemed like a lost cause when everything became air-born, but soon after the winds subsided, a group of concerned relayers set out to hunt for any money that might have settled in the park or anything else of value that might be used. Returning to the community center, a small group of people brought a couple of checks in that we could salvage. Then, one of the volunteers, Gene Echols, president of the local North Lee Civitans, slipped and fell in a mud puddle! There at his side was the entire list of names for our luminary ceremony. Although it was torn and wet, we brought it inside and dried it with great care so we could at least have a partial luminary ceremony. (Photo of the luminary forms, along with money and a check that were recovered).
As the time drew near, we gathered together and planned to show two luminary bags; one representing all of the names “in honor of” and another for all of the names “in memory of”.
Debi Golebiewski and Gene Echols approached the microphone and started the luminary ceremony as Gene gave his own testimony of how he found the list of names. Then, turning the microphone over to Debi Golebiewski, each and every name was carefully read aloud to all of the 300 people still in attendance. There were only a few dry eyes in the center at that point. Once all names had been read and the flames from the two glowing luminary bags was extinguished, a cardboard box was circulated as an offering in a church service. By the time the box had made it through the building, people had donated $600! A blessing had been witnessed right there.
The 2009 Relay for Life might have been short of the expected totals of money raised but the event was a success. It will go down in history. Perhaps next year, we need T-shirts that read,”I SURVIVED THE 2009 RELAY FOR LIFE”. Thank you to all of the teams and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make everything perfect for the event. And, thank you to all of the many people who gave donations for the event. It is very much appreciated. Without all of you, there is no way the Relay for Life would ever be a success.