Despite threats of rain, nothing could dampen the support for cancer research given by the Cullman County community during the 15th Annual Relay For Life Friday night at Heritage Park.

This year’s event was a little different from last year with the loss of the Children’s Village, but kids were able to enjoy train rides, courtesy of Fun Zone, and bucket truck lifts, provided by the Cullman Electric Cooperative.

Mark Bland, an employee of Cullman Electric Cooperative and volunteer, was more than pleased to spend his Friday night taking children up 90 feet overlooking the park.

“This is all for a good cause,” Bland said. “We are trying to be more community involved, and besides, the money might one day aid in finding a cure for cancer.”

According to Relay For Life Chairman Blake West this years event was a glowing success.

“The turnout is way above expectations,” West said. “I would like to thank our committee for the hard work and effort they put into this year’s event, and also I would like to thank God for allowing me to be in a position where I can help others.”

Most of the Relay For Life teams offered food items for a small fee, but owner of AJ’s Bar-B-Q Albert Jackson was also present serving chicken sandwiches and rib plates.

“This is my time being involved here in Cullman,” Jackson said. “I have been involved with the Cancer Society in the past but this is the first time I have offered up barbecue at Relay For Life. The money goes to a good cause and I am just happy to be here.”

Not only were there vendors and companies present but also cancer survivors, like lifelong Cullman resident Irene McCarley.

“I was diagnosed with chronic Leukemia in May 2001,” McCarley said. “I have been in remission since then, but my doctors think that it might be coming back again. My white blood count is high and we will just have to wait and see. There is no cure for type of Leukemia I have.”

Axys Technology may have been the most decked out team at this year’s event, with a giant volcano which could be seen from all angles of the park. When spectators approached they were greeted by a medicine man, all part of Axys Technology’s ‘Survivor’ themed tent.

Axys has been involved with Relay For Life for 12 years and plans on continuing its service to the residents of Cullman County.

“We just feel like we want to do all we can to keep people involved with Relay For Life,” Johnnie Miller, an employee at Axys said. “We have a lot of support from our management, because without them we would not be able to what we are able to do.”

Human resource director Judy Bradford is not just a volunteer but is also a cancer survivor. Bradford was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2002 and has been cancer free since her operation.

“I know how important this event is,” Bradford said. “I can say that the money raised at Relay For Life has dramatically improved the quality of care and research compared to when I was diagnosed just five years ago.”

Cullman Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Weidner addressed those in attendance last, informing all residents of his commitment to providing quality care to all citizens.

“We are very proud to be a sponsor in Relay For Life,” Weidner said. “Our task is to help every citizen achieve the highest quality of life possible. For those families facing cancer, just know that we are behind you.”

One of the great traditions that happens every year is the survivors’ walk. This years walk was nothing short of a flood of purple shirts, representing all of those who have conquered this disease. The sheer increase in survivors was an indication that the money raised at the Relay For Life events does aid in research and development of new drugs.

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