Published on LancasterOnline on June 13 and in print June 12.
Kathy Morgan had a strong feeling that eventually she would be diagnosed with cancer; after all, her father and other family members had battled the disease.
Unfortunately, she was right: She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.
After the diagnosis, she says, she reflected on her father’s cancer, and decided to remain optimistic.
“(I was) determined that there was going to be a change (from) his generation to mine,” she said.
And she says she repeatedly told herself, “Let me get through this, and I promise I’ll give back.”
She was declared cancer-free the same year of her diagnosis and is the first person in her family to survive the disease.
It was her promise to give back that inspired her to join her real estate firm’s Relay for Life team in 1999. In 2001 she created her own team, Captain Morgan’s Cancer Crusaders.
This year, Captain Morgan’s Cancer Crusaders passed the $1 million mark in funds raised for the American Cancer Society.
Morgan’s team participates in the Relay for Life of Lancaster, which was held Friday and Saturday at Conestoga Valley High School. The Lancaster Relay is the third-most lucrative Relay in the United States.
The team’s first fundraiser happened at a bar in Mount Joy. Instead of spending five dollars on a nightcap, the members of her team put the money aside for the relay. They raised $7,500 the first year of the team’s existence.
These days, the team organizes numerous fundraisers, including bus trips, dances and bar outings, throughout the year. Team members, community members and even some strangers attend these events and make them a success.
There are 15 members on Morgan’s Relay for Life team, five of whom have been on the team since its inception. The members of the current team have been on it for many years, Morgan says.
Each member takes a fundraiser and makes it their own, which is one of the reasons the team has been so successful, Morgan says. In addition, members write fundraising letters; one sends out as many as 500 in a given year and another sends between 100 and 200.
But Morgan says the team members are not solely responsible for its success.
“It’s really not us,” she says. “We’re just kind of the middleman between every common person who wants to do something. … Cancer just touches so many people, that a lot want to do something about it but just don’t know how.”
Relay for Life has made a difference in Morgan’s life, and it continuously touches the lives of those affected by cancer. It is an event at which people can feel safe and be around like-minded people, Morgan said.
“I’m just one of thousands of people,” she says. “You can get the same response from everyone who’s involved with Relay.”
Morgan and her team were recognized Friday night at Relay for Life for their contributions to the American Cancer Society. They were awarded with a gift, personalized T-shirts and a slide show that commemorated all of their efforts.
This year, Captain Morgan’s Cancer Crusaders raised more than $100,000. Morgan herself raised more than $10,000.