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Purple passion: Franklin to color up for annual fundraiser

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Dan Kitten, of Greenwood, cooks hamburgers to help raise money for cancer research at the 2012 Relay for Life. FILE PHOTO
Dan Kitten, of Greenwood, cooks hamburgers to help raise money for cancer research at the 2012 Relay for Life. FILE PHOTO

In the weeks leading up to this year’s Relay for Life, Franklin will take on a deep shade of purple.

Businesses will paint their windows, houses will fly purple signs, and ribbons will adorn lampposts, trees and street signs. Supporters of cancer research will wear grape-colored T-shirts and paint their faces.

During the Mardi Gras-themed event, participants will wear purple beads and masks channeling the spirit of New Orleans.

Organizers have planned the “Paint the Town Purple” campaign as a way to increase visibility of one of the community’s most popular events.


When: 9 a.m. June 8 to 9 a.m. June 9

Where: Cancer Care Center of Johnson Memorial Hospital, 1125 W. Jefferson St., Franklin

Theme: Mardi Gras


9 a.m.: Opening ceremony

9:30 a.m.: Team lap

10 a.m.: Survivor and caregiver lap

11 a.m.: Bead lap

Noon: Box car race and float lap

1 p.m.: King and Queen of Mardi Gras

2 p.m.: Grand Club lap

2:30 p.m.: Gumbo cook-off entries must be to the judges at the main stage

3 p.m.: Fight Back ceremony

4 p.m.: Masquerade lap

5 p.m.: Pie bake-off entries must be to the judges at the main stage

6 p.m.: Costume party lap

7 p.m.: Green, Purple and Gold from Head to Toe lap

8 p.m.: Southern Belle and Lad lap

9 p.m.: Luminaria ceremony

10 p.m.: My Reason to Relay lap

11 p.m.: Crazy Hat lap

Midnight: Carnival lap

1 a.m.: Duck Dynasty-Camouflage lap

2 a.m.: New Orleans lap

3 a.m.: Backward lap

4 a.m.: Glow in the Dark lap

5 a.m.: Football lap

6 a.m.: Swamp lap

7 a.m.: Cleanup lap

8 a.m.: Closing ceremonies

They envision a bigger 24-hour event on June 8 and 9 with more music, more food, contests such as a pie bake-off and box car race, and a greater emphasis on the survivors who make Relay for Life so memorable.

“We’re hoping that we bring some more community awareness. We’ve had Relay for Life for many years, but we think there are still a lot of people we haven’t reached yet,” said Erin Napier, chairwoman of the event.

Relay for Life is a nationwide fundraiser of the American Cancer Society.

Teams spend months raising money, which goes to research and programs such as giving patients rides to their treatments and workshops to help women deal with hair loss.

The effort culminates in a 24-hour walk-a-thon, where team members take laps while bands perform and movies play. One team member walks at all times.

Franklin’s Relay for Life organizers gave the event a revamp last year. They had seen participation drop over the past five years and wanted to ensure it grew in the future.

They started by moving to a date in mid-June. Volunteers canvassed the community to get people who had never formed a team involved.

“We want people to ask questions and come out. Once we get them there, we think they’ll stay with it. They just need to see what we’re about,” Napier said.

At the same time, organizers wanted to encourage longtime teams to try new, unique fundraising methods.

Cecelia Henson has led the team from NSK, which has participated since 2007. Each of the past 10 years, they raised more than $10,000 and are aiming for $15,000 for 2013.

But for members of the team, finding a cure for cancer is the ultimate goal.

“I lost my dad to cancer, and every person on the team it’s important to them for those kind of personal reasons. Everyone is affected by cancer,” she said.

To help raise money, the team raised money through a fish fry, a Zumba marathon and motorcycle ride. Members planned a 5K race. But Henson also encouraged people to do something off-the-wall to get attention.

Wavie Sharp, a Franklin resident and NSK employee, came up with a pirate-themed fundraiser.

Friends had teased him for years about his lazy eye. Poking fun at himself, he was willing to wear an eye-patch if people donated $500. He reached that level and then walked around work at NSK with a pirate hat and his eye-patch.

Sharp had lost his grandmother to cancer, and his stepmother is a throat-cancer survivor. He was willing to do anything to help fight back against cancer.

“I’ve lost too many important people in my life due to cancer to sit back and not do anything,” he said. “You might think I just walk for them, but I get out there and remember and celebrate their lives.”

So far, 42 teams have registered to take part in the event, and Napier expects to get more than 50 by the time the actual walk starts. The goal is to raise $121,000, slightly more than the $118,000 they brought in last year.

During the Relay for Life, survivors will be honored with a special lap celebrating their battle against cancer. People will light luminarias and place them around the track in honor of those who have died from the disease.

Organizers have planned special events such as a gumbo cook-off, a pie contest and Miss Relay.

Spirit tickets will be given to the teams that participate in each event.

 The team with the most spirit points wins a yard sign to let the community know how dedicated they are.

“We have a very passionate group of volunteers who are dedicated to making sure we find a cure in our lifetime,” Napier said. “We all feel that’s a very attainable goal. We’re all driven to help with that.”

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