RUSSELLVILLE — Volunteers for Relay for Life of Pope, Yell and Conway Counties are working furiously to plan the Aug. 25 fundraiser, but it almost didn’t get off the ground — not until Arkansas Tech University student Kori Bull of Dardanelle stepped up to serve as chairwoman.
“It was just a fell-in-my-lap sort of thing; it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Bull said.
Bull, a 20-year-old junior, volunteered to chair the effort after an American Cancer Society employee talked to one of Bull’s classes about the fundraising event.
Bull said Alie Bolling, community-development manager for the American Cancer Society, spoke about working for a nonprofit to the hospitality class that Bull was taking, taught by Cass Capen-Housely.
“[Bolling] informed us that River Valley was at risk of losing its Relay for Life because it didn’t have a committee,” Bull said.
“My professor told me right afterward that I needed to work on this event,” Bull said.
The student said her first reaction was, “I’m so young; I’m inexperienced.” However, she said Capen-Housely “was persistent and talked me into it like in three minutes.”
Bull and Bolling met after class to talk about the details.
This year’s event, Quack Down on Cancer, is scheduled for 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Russellville Aquatic Center.
“Each team will have a member in the pool — it’s a lap pool, divided into lanes — swimming laps or floating, someone in the water at all times through the event,” Bull said. “This type of water relay is a first for Arkansas.”
She said Capen-Housely was the first to suggest using the new aquatic center after Bolling mentioned a swim relay had been held in another state.
It’s also not a 24-hour event, as it has been in the past, where teams have members walk on a track throughout the night.
“Instead of walking a lap around a track this year, we are having a Survivor Splash, where the survivors at the relay jump in the pool together,” Bull said.
Many Relay for Life events have stopped holding 24-hour relays, Bull said, because just as much money can be raised in a more convenient time frame. The River Valley group’s goal is $25,000.
Money is raised by sponsors and team participation, she said.
“Teams are asked to fundraise before the event or are welcome to set up a game or booth at the event that raises money, or just [accept] donations.”
Raffle prizes are being solicited, and $1 raffle tickets will be sold before and at the event, Bull said.
“We’re getting donations from all sorts of vendors, coupons; we’re hoping to get tangible, bigger items,” she said.
“We will also have shirts going on sale for preorder shortly, and there will be shirts to purchase at the event. Buying a shirt for the event is a super easy way to be a part of the Quack Down on Cancer for most people,” she said.
A festival-type atmosphere is planned for outside the aquatic center.
“We’ll have games provided by the teams in the outside area in the parking lot. We’ll also have local vendors and businesses there, and we’re trying to have food trucks,” Bull said. “It will be a little bit like a fair, but no rides — a craft fair of sorts.”
Another activity at the event will be a tie-dye station, representing the colors of cancer so teams and guests can tie-dye their shirts.”
“We’ve had so many amazing volunteers to step up and help me through the process,” she said, including Hope Adair of Russellville, Tommy Mumert, assistant professor of journalism at Arkansas Tech, and Bolling.
Bolling said she thought it was “amazing” that Bull wanted to volunteer for the relay.
“She is such a strong individual, and I knew she was going to make this event great from the first time I talked with her after class,” Bolling said. “One of the things the American Cancer Society does is fund groundbreaking research in the fight against cancer. This event will help aid in the fight. … For the River Valley area, we get to celebrate the survivors of this disease and continue to fight with them in the community.”
Bull said the event is coming together, but more volunteers and raffle items are needed.
She said a restaurant, for example, might sponsor a free lunch or catering. Volunteers can work through the summer on getting donations, or just the day of the event, “getting all that set up and organized,” she said.
Bull said Relay for Life of Pope, Yell and Conway counties is on Facebook and Instagram @QuackDownOnCancer. She can be reached at email@example.com.
She said her great-grandfather, Joe Grigsby, was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was in the sixth grade, and his cancer has been in remission about 10 years.
“It is, for sure, close to my heart. I’ve been given such a privileged life. I’ve had only one family member with cancer so far. I’m blessed with time to work on a community event and go to school and raise money for people I don’t know who need it,” she said. “I couldn’t turn it down.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.