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Local teams Raising Money for American Cancer Society

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Although cancer is a horrible disease that imposes horrific pain and burdens on individuals and families, two local women are demonstrating that the fight against cancer is filled with team spirit, determination and even a sense of fun.

Christina Morrison of Townsend and Nicole Williams of Ayer are leading two teams of volunteers who are organizing several local fundraising events for the American Cancer Society (ACS), culminating in the Relay For Life, scheduled to take place June 17 and 18 at the Ayer High School.

“We see battling cancer as a very personal battle,” says Morrison. “Each one of us has lost a family member, a friend or has battled the disease ourselves.”

Fun was the operative word at a recent fundraiser, dubbed “Dark Intentions after Halloween Bash,” that took place at Ayer’s Billiards Café on Nov. 6. The event drew close to 100 people, many sporting costumes that ranged from humorous and creative to downright scary (think Snookie from Jersey Shore, and Jigsaw from the “Saw” movies). Some outstanding costumes included an especially wild Medusa, and Snow White with the nine alternative dwarves — Thirsty, Perky, Germy, Chatty, Silly, Funny, Lucky, Smiley, and Spazzy.

There was a suggested voluntary contribution to attend, and the Café’s owner, Calvin Moore, donated ten percent of the evening’s bar proceeds to the ACS. Disc jockeys Drew Rissler and Chad Ardizzoni, from Get Down Tonight Entertainment of New Hampshire, donated their time so the crowd could dance the night away.

“It was a blast,” says Nicole. “Everyone was dancing and many stayed beyond the original ending time of midnight. It was hilarious seeing people in outrageous costumes playing pool and cutting up on the dance floor.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a nationwide community-based organization of volunteers dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. The ACS has 900 local offices in the U.S. and a presence in more than 5,100 communities nationwide.

The ACS’s annual “Relay For Life” draws 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities to rally against cancer.

During the relay, participants camp out overnight at a local high school or park, and take turns walking or running around a track or path. The 24-hour event is staged overnight to highlight the fact that “cancer never sleeps.” Each team that participates has a team member on the track at all times during the event. The Ayer Relay begins at 6 p.m. on June 17 and ends the following day.

Fun is the driving spirit behind the team led by Nicole Williams. The team consists of 10 other women — Debbi Blood, Katrina Drew, Cyndi Noonan, Sharon Hebert, Maureen Breault, Sonia Patano, Sheila Kelly, Lisa Richard, Christine Miska and Stacey Clifton — and has a goal to reach $7,500 before the Relay. They have created a unique angle for raising that money and a name to prove it. The “Flockers” undertake a stealth mission after dark and set up a flock of bright pink flamingos on local area lawns. They also leave behind a calling card banner, “You’ve Been Flocked” for the surprised recipient to see next morning. The recipient is “flocked” by a friend or family member who makes a donation to the team to adorn the flocked’s yard with the colorful lawn ornaments, which are removed within 24 hours. The “flocked” can make a voluntary donation for flamingo removal or to have the birds moved to another unwitting recipient’s home.

Morrison leads the “Friends Who Care Team” of six other women — Delilah Johnson, Kate Martin, Joni Mello, Angela Morrison, Nadia Morrison, and Amanda Robinson. Both teams are always looking for new and original ways to raise money to support the fight against cancer, and have achieved remarkable milestones in that quest. So far, the Friends Who Care have raised $4,000 for the fiscal year that ends in June 2011 and have an overall goal of $25,000. Morrison hopes that they can exceed last year’s numbers.

“Last year, all teams raised over $90,000 for 2010,” says Morrison, “and we’re hoping to reach $150,000 this coming year for the Relay For Life finale in June.”

The Friends Who Care and Flockers teams have several more ACS fundraising events in the pipeline. On Nov. 15, they are presenting “Laugher Is the Best Medicine,” a comedy show featuring Boston-area comedians at Destare Martini Bar in Fitchburg.

From Dec. 9 through 11, Uno Chicago Bar & Grill in Leominster is donating 15-20 percent of any fundraising participant’s tab. Look for the donation coupons in local newspapers or e-mail Friendswhocare@rocketmail.com.

“We’ll be having more events in Ayer at the Billiards Café, which is a great entertainment venue” says Williams. “There will be mid-winter and spring fundraising parties preceding the Relay For Life.”

To find out about the Relay For Life, visit the website at www.relayforlife.org/ayerma.

Contact The Friends Who Care at FriendsWhoCare@rocketmail.com or The Flockers at typhoonz70@gmail.com.