BONHAM — Participants of Fannin County’s Relay for Life have rated it the top relay in the Dallas region in June, according to social media and 2020 event chair Tim La Vergne II.

“After every relay event, everyone that registered gets to fill out a survey on their overall experience, from pros to cons and what could be improved or keep the same. With our average of 94%, it has made us the best relay in the American Cancer Society Dallas market,” La Vergne said in the press release.

Fannin County’s Relay for Life was April 27. La Vergne said the goal was to raise $70,000; they raised $71,685.11. According to the event website, top fundraisers included Amber Sutherland at $1,385; Debbie Vest at $1,073; and Rachel Morrow Hernandez at $791. Thirty five relay teams participated, with Clayton Homes raising $10,526, Fannin Bank raising $5,778 and Bonham ISD raising $5,210.

“It means a lot. Our whole leadership team is honored,” LaVergne said. “Even though Fannin County is small, we have a big fight. So don’t count us out.”

Relay for Life is a global fundraising event in association with the American Cancer Society, according to the website. Dr. Gordon Klatt created the event in 1985 after he walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, where he raised $27,000 through pledges for cancer research. In 1986, 19 teams launched the inaugural Relay For Life at the Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000. In 2019, more than four million people in 26 countries take part in Relay for Life through global partners or local chapters.

“It’s an opportunity for us to remember loved ones lost and honor survivors of all cancers,” the website stated. “Traditionally, relay events last anywhere from six to 24 hours with teams of survivors, caregivers and supporters taking turns walking around a track or designated path. But today, communities are giving events their own unique spin … But every Relay For Life event shares the same goal — to take down our biggest rival, cancer.”

LaVergne said the Fannin County relay is celebrating its 20th anniversary and planning its 2020 event. The county’s tagline is “Small town, big fight,” signifying their dedication to survivors and caregivers and research fundraising.

The relay rebranded in 2016, he said, where the board rebuilt the program and focused on developing relationships with the community.

“We got people excited again, we got involved and got to know our donors,” he said. “We said, ‘we want you to know we care about you, not just your money.’ Now because of the relationship we’ve developed, the passion is back.”

La Vergne said the team is looking at a new venue for 2020 that is more central to Bonham, easily walkable and accessible from all directions. There will also be a kids zone at the relay. The location will be announced in August, along with more event details.

“It’s overwhelming to see how the community comes together for one special night,” La Vergne said. “I’m making a difference by telling people, ‘I’ve never experienced cancer myself, but I can be your voice.’”

Macon Atkinson is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6963 or macon.atkinson@theparisnews.com.

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