Five years ago, an eighth grade 4-H’er came up to me at Relay for Life, excitedly telling me how 4-H should have a team.
Having captained a team myself the previous year, I knew I was already spread thin and couldn’t take on one more commitment.
But he insisted.
Other 4-H’ers latched onto the idea, declaring how much they’d love to be on a Relay team.
When Ken Galloway explained that he wanted to do something about cancer in honor of his mother, survivor Dianna Galloway, I found myself leaning toward a new Relay team.
I understood that need to do something about a disease so unpredictable and uncontrollable. My friend’s cancer was what had similarly moved me to captain a Relay team.
So I finally gave in, but with one condition: Galloway had to captain the team.
What rising high school freshman would take me up on that offer?
Oh, but he did.
Galloway captained two 4-H Relay for Life teams before turning over the reins to another 4-H’er.
We’ve never raised the most money or won any awards at Relay, but each year, I have been inspired to watch youths doing something about cancer.
Time and time again, I’ve been moved by the youths eager to join our team.
So often it is in honor or memory of a parent or other loved one who has fought cancer.
These kids describe days they couldn’t concentrate in school knowing their mom or other family member was at the hospital going through radiation, chemotherapy or surgery.
As an adult, I was able to at least go with my friend to treatments or bring her dinner.
But most students don’t even have that small feeling of control.
They also talk about the Relay for Life fundraisers they were proud to donate to at school or other community events, but nearly always report they had no team to join to help raise funds themselves.
Seeing them work together under Galloway’s leadership was moving.
Now, wait, you didn’t think Galloway just passed on the team after two years, did you?
No, he then volunteered to serve on the countywide Relay for Life committee, helping run the entire event and assisting teams across the county to fight cancer with the American Cancer Society.
He’s been doing that for three years now and is just finishing up his freshman year at Georgia Perimeter College.
Galloway is headed to his final State 4-H Congress this summer in the computer project; he has volunteered to lead three 4-H meetings a month at Porterdale Elementary all year, and it seems like he’s always working at Chick-fil-A.
He is a certified 4-H adult volunteer, always ready to make time to plan and assist with local events or chaperone district conferences and camps.
But I should have known that cancer never sleeps, and neither does Galloway.
I’ve erased and rewritten this sentence at least a dozen times, but I still can’t adequately explain how proud I was to hear Galloway named as the next chair of Newton County’s Relay for Life event.
It took me back to that night five years ago, when I said, “No.”
I’m so glad Galloway didn’t take no for an answer.
It made me think of all the carloads of tents, chairs, snow cones, and sticky, drippy recycling bags that I’ve grumbled over in the wee hours after Relay.
It made me think of the times I’ve looked at our total in comparison to other teams and mistakenly thought the total was small.
But, oh, this Relay team has accomplished so much more than a dollar sign.
It has given kids a way to do something.
It has taught youths about leadership, organization, planning, problem solving and so much more.
Thanks to Galloway’s persistence that we start a team, it has trained a whole new generation of future Relay team captains.
So Ken, I can’t think of any better way to say congratulations and good luck, than to tell you that this year, I’m Relaying in memory of my friend Ann, but I’m also Relaying in honor of you.
If you’d like to make a donation to kick off the 2014 4-H Relay for Life team, you may send donations to Newton County 4-H, Relay for Life Team, 1113 Usher Street, Suite 202, Covington, GA 30014. Donations are tax-deductible.
Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.