DALLAS -- The theme for American Cancer Society's 2011 Polk County Relay For Life is "It's Time for a Cure."
This year -- the 11th for the event in Polk County -- it seems sponsors and teams are taking that theme to heart, with fundraising so far outpacing last year's effort.
The organization had collected $49,680 as of May 5. That is roughly $20,000 ahead of the collection at the same time last year.
"This is just simply unheard of in this county," Polk County Relay For Life cochairwoman Kay Graven said.
Nine individuals have each donated more than $1,000, and this year's event has 31 sponsors and 47 teams, which include 576 participants.
Graven said West Valley Hospital in Dallas is leading the way with a $5,000 sponsorship. She said West Valley has always been a sponsor, but this year its support has increased significantly.
Bob Brannigan, West Valley's chief administrator, said the increased support is in recognition of Relay For Life's commitment to supporting research and better patient care.
Brannigan said with a background in nursing, he knows how important prevention and awareness is to combating cancer.
"Early detection and awareness is absolutely crucial," he said.
West Valley Hospital has committed more than just its donation to Relay For Life to combating cancer.
Brannigan said the hospital has invested about $1.5 million in improving technology at the hospital to streamline service and diagnosis to patients in recent months.
Part of the upgrades included an overhaul of the hospital's mammography suite in an effort to make the screenings more comfortable for women.
Now the changing room is next to the screening room, eliminating the need for patients to cross hallways in a hospital gown. A new machine now makes the screenings more comfortable and less intimidating.
"Women getting mammographies is so, so important that we have to be hypersensitive to the environment," he said. "It gives us the opportunity to detect something early and save someone's life."
Kevin Wright, West Valley's imaging supervisor, said changes may seem small, but they preserve a woman's dignity during screening.
"It's really nothing exceptional, but it makes all the difference in the world," he said. "The goal is to make it as comfortable as possible so they are not afraid to come in."
Graven said she believes the hospital's support of Relay For Life and commitment to detection and prevention is helping set the tone for the 2011 event in Polk County.
"Their support has been crucial," Graven said.
You Can Help
* The 2011 Polk County Relay For Life starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, and ends at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 22 at Dallas High School's Gallaspy Field. For more information or to donation, go to www.relayforlife.org/polkcountyor or call Jay Epperson, 503-507-2129, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; Kay Graven, 503-623-5495, or e-mail to email@example.com.