Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rotary Club Speech

Recently I was asked to give a speech at the local Rotary Club about Relay For Life. This was the text that I prepared.

I have been asked to tell you a bit about Relay For Life. Relay For life is about people making a difference. Here is a story that shows how one person can make a difference.

The idea that became Relay For Life, began in Tacoma, Washington. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma surgeon, wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society office and to show support for all of his patients who had battled cancer. He decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyed – running marathons.

In May 1985, Dr. Klatt spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. He ran for more than 83 miles. That first year, nearly 300 of Dr. Klatt's friends, family, and patients watched as he ran and walked the course. Throughout the night, friends donated $25 to run or walk with Dr. Klatt for 30 minutes. His efforts raised $27,000 to fight cancer.

While circling the track those 24 hours, Dr. Klatt thought about how others could take part in his mission to fight cancer. He envisioned a 24-hour team relay event that could raise more money to fight cancer. Over the next few months, he pulled together a small committee to plan the first team relay event, known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.

In 1986, 19 teams took part in what was the first team relay event, and raised $33,000. An indescribable spirit prevailed at the track and in the tents that dotted the infield. What started as one man's dream is now an event taking place in over five thousand communities across America as well as in many other countries.

So what exactly is Relay For Life? It is much more than a walk around a track, Relay is a time to celebrate those who have battled cancer, remember those lost and get inspired to fight back. Those who have shared the same experience find common ground, hope and healing at Relay.

Union Bank Purple Onions

If you have been into local banks, the hospital, and many other places around town you know that fund raising is what Relay for Life is about. It is true that Relay For Life is the main form of fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Every dollar raised makes a difference to people in our community whose lives are touched by cancer. The Society has contributed to almost every major discovery in cancer research. Millions of lives have been saved as a result, including people you may know. For those people and countless others, the research the Society has funded is resulting in better ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer.

One of the first things that people ask, and rightly so, is how is the money raised by Relay used. One of the uses is for Cancer research, but as important as that is it is sometimes hard for people to really grasp that idea. There are many services that the American Cancer Society provides to people right here in Polk County. When cancer affects you or someone you love, the American Cancer Society can lessen your fears and provide inspiration through their many programs and services - all free of charge and made possible through Relay For Life donations. Your donations give those touched by cancer answers to their questions and offer places to turn for help in their community through the Society's Web site, or their 24-hour toll-free number, 1-800-ACS-2345.

Tuesday evening my wife and I spoke at the Cancer Support Group that meets at RMCC. We learned of very positive experiences people had calling the toll free number.

To give you a bit of an idea of what the money is used for, here are the largest categories. Patient Support 20%; Prevention 20%; Detection and Treatment 16%; Research 14%.

But Relay For Life has another side besides fund raising. Relay brings people together and empowers them. We have a slogan. Celebrate - Remember - Fight Back.

A cancer survivor's recovery involves much more than medical treatments - it takes hope to heal. By participating in the Relay For Life, those touched by cancer can feel empowered to fight back against this disease.

To give you an idea of how Relay helps empower those touched by cancer, let me tell you my wife's story. Her mother died of cancer when Gina was just 21 years old. Her father had colon cancer, and all three of her sisters have had breast cancer. She is the only person in her immediate family that is cancer free.


Several years ago, Gina's sister Roberta got involved with Relay For Life in Enumclaw, Washington. For a number of years, Gina would travel to Enumclaw to be a part of Relay For Life there. Two years ago, she learned that Polk County was going to have a Relay. She got involved in the 2007 Relay, and have been involved ever since. Relay helps her to celebrate her family that are cancer survivors, it gives her a positive way to remember her parents, and it gives her a way to fight back. Because she is such a fighter, she is passionate about Relay For Life. She is Fighting Back.

What is happening right here in Polk County this year? 28 teams are busy raising funds and cancer awareness. These are teams that represent businesses, churches, families, schools, professional organizations, clubs, and community organizations. 350 participants have signed up on our local Relay For Life website. Over 17,000 dollars have been raised. Last year local Relay For Life team members raised over $60,000.00. This year our goal is $64,000.00. Right now these teams are fundraising, but the big event is April 17th and 18th at Janssen Park.

Survivors Lap

What is going to happen that night? The teams will set up at the park with fundraisng ideas. There will be plenty of food, and lots of other fun activities. The entire community is invited to come to the park and help celebrate. The evening kicks off with the Survivor Lap. Relay is a big celebration to celebrate our cancer survivors. Over 100 have signed up with us to walk in that opening Survivor lap. We also honor Caregivers. To be the physical and emotional support for a cancer patient is a tough but very important job, and we honor those individuals. After these special laps around the park, the teams start walking with the goal of keeping at least one person from each team on the track at all times. Relay starts at 6:00 P.M. and continues until Saturday morning with the closing ceremonies starting at 10:00 A.M. We go through the night because cancer never sleeps. All evening there are lots of activities. There will be live music with a great program being put together by Richie Owens.

Highlighting the evening is a luminaria Ceremony of Hope held after dark to honor cancer survivors and to remember loved ones lost to cancer. The luminaria candles line the track and are left burning throughout the night. If you were at last years relay you know what an awesome sight that was. After the quiet reflective time of the luminaria ceremony, the celebration resumes with karaoke and other fun activities lasting all through the night.


At the closing ceremonies there will be drawings for the many items that are being given as prizes by the various teams.

We hope to have lots of people from the community join in the celebration that is Relay For Life.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adam Bender

Adam Bender slips a chest protector over his Astros jersey, buckles a shinguard to his right leg, positions a mask atop his head, grabs his catcher's mitt and hops out of the dugout.

Adam has his game face on. Or at least what passes as a game face for an 8-year-old. His eyes are serious. His freckled nose is crinkled with determination.

It is a cool, breezy Saturday morning at Veterans Park, which is already buzzing with activity. Baseball games are being played on three diamonds within a pop-up of each other. Parents are clustered in and around the stands, chatting and cheering. Players of all ages, wearing uniforms or team T-shirts, swarm the place.

Hardly anybody gives a second glance to the catcher in the Southeastern rookie league deftly playing on one leg.

Adam Bender is just another kid playing ball, which is exactly how his parents, Michelle and Chris, want it.


"I was a little hesitant when we first brought him up here for baseball," Michelle said. "I thought his spirit might be crushed if he got out every time. Then I thought, who am I to micromanage his feelings? He's going to have to learn how to deal with this stuff.

"The more I shelter him, the more he'll think, 'I'm fragile.' I don't think I'll ever tell him he can't do something."

Adam is amazing to watch. He takes his position behind the plate, resting on his right knee.

When a runner rounds third looking to score, Adam jumps up and holds his ground.

He suffered a mild concussion on one collision and missed a practice or two. But he recovered and was ready for action in the next game. At one point this season he led the rookie league in put-outs at home.

At bat, his athletic skill and balance allow him to take a full swing, and he usually makes contact. He hops to first base as quickly as he can. If he's safe, he uses crutches to run the bases. When he gets thrown out, he hops dejectedly back to the dugout.

He's a competitor, and not just in baseball.

Adam, who lost his left leg to cancer when he was 1, has played soccer for a couple of years. He uses crutches, and is a whirlwind on the field in Centenary United Methodist's "I Am Third" league.

He played YMCA flag football last fall for Bruce Rector, who has coached against Adam's baseball team.

At first, Rector wasn't sure if Adam could play football. "Then I slept on it. Having seen him play baseball, I knew he'd find a way to make it work," Rector said. "Sure enough, we put him at quarterback (using no crutches) and used a shotgun snap. He threw a lot of touchdown passes."

Adam lobbied to line up at receiver at least once so he could have a chance to score. On a conversion play, Adam hopped 5 yards down the field and made a diving catch in the end zone despite being double-covered.

"That's what I mean when I say if you turn him loose, he'll find a way," Rector said.

Adam shyly deflects question about himself. He admits that he "loves baseball" and "loves catching," but he doesn't think he's doing anything out of the ordinary.

Astros coach Dan Wyse said he went out of his way to get Adam on his team "because he's a good kid, a good catcher, and what he brings attitude-wise, he's an inspiration to everybody."

Michelle Bender appreciates the effect her son has on people young and old.

"Adam has helped other kids see that a person with a disability can be fun to hang out with, and play with, and they can still be a part of a community or part of a team. It's developed the kids' compassion.

"And if he can inspire even one family to allow their kid to try something they normally might not try, that's great."

Adam tried using a prosthesis but didn't like it because he felt it slowed him down. He is adamant about not using a wheelchair.

"He wants to play ball like everybody else," Michelle said. "He's always had that 'nobody's going to stop me' attitude."

Chris Bender thinks his son's "attitude and energy" channel naturally into sports. "He pops out of bed at 60 miles an hour and doesn't quit until he collapses at the end of the day. He's always wanted to do everything."

Doing everything that his older brother Steven and younger sister Morgan do is what pleases Adam's dad the most.

"The best thing about it is the normalcy," Chris said. "There will come a day when Adam will no longer be able to keep up. But he's had some measure of childhood where he's just like everybody else.

"He doesn't have to sit and watch his brother and sister play. He's out there playing with them."

And teaching a life lesson to everybody who's watching.

Rector does motivational speaking and leadership training, and he regularly relates Adam's inspirational story to adults.

"The lesson he teaches is that you need to let talented people with great heart get out there and do their thing," Rector said. "There's no such thing as an insurmountable obstacle for Adam. He's a winner."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thank You

Thursday night is our regular Relay For Life planning meeting. Our turnout was good considering the inclement weather. We finalized our sponsors and are ready to send the information to the t-shirt printer. Each sponsor has their name or logo printed on the back of the Relay For Life t-shirts that each participant receives. Even though the economy is much worse than it was a year ago, we have more sponsors than we did last year.

It is very refreshing that even in tough economic times so many people and businesses are willing to donate to a cause that gives others such hope. To all of the sponsors, team members, committee members, and everyone who donates to the Relay For Life: Thank You!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Colon Cancer Myths

Five Myths About Colon Cancer

Many times, colorectal cancer can be prevented. Still, it's one of the 5 most common cancers in men and women in the United States. Colorectal cancer is also one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United.States. Don't let these 5 common myths stop you from getting the lifesaving tests you need, when you need them.

Myth: Colorectal cancer is a man's disease.

Truth: Colorectal cancer is just as common among women as men. Each year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 die from the disease.

Myth: Colorectal cancer cannot be prevented.

Truth: In many cases colorectal cancer can be prevented. Colorectal cancer almost always starts with a small growth called a polyp. If the polyp is found early, doctors can remove it and stop colorectal cancer before it starts. These tests can find polyps : double contrast barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy).

To help lower your chances of getting colorectal cancer:

* get to and stay at a healthy weight
* be physically active
* limit the amount of alcohol you drink
* eat a diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and less red or processed meat .

Myth: African Americans are not at risk for colorectal cancer.

Truth: African-American men and women are diagnosed with and die from colorectal cancer at higher rates than men and women of any other US. racial or ethnic group.

Myth: Age doesn't matter when it comes to getting colorectal cancer.

Truth: More than 90% of colorectal cancer cases are in people age 50 and older. For this reason, the American Cancer Society recommends you start getting tested for the disease at age 50. People who are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer -- for example, those who have colon or rectal cancer in their families -- may need to begin testing at a younger age. Talk to your doctor about when you should start getting tested.

Myth: It's better not to get tested for colorectal cancer because it's deadly anyway.

Truth: Colorectal cancer is often highly treatable. If it is found and treated early, the 5-year survival rate is about 90%. But because many people are not getting tested, only about 4 out of 10 are diagnosed at this early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful.