Students and families within Carroll Independent School District spent all night walking in circles.The over-night exercise was part of the district’s fourth annual Rachel’s Challenge/ Relay For Life to raise money for the American Cancer Society. More than 1,200 participants filled Carroll High School’s football field and track, generating more than $120,000 for cancer research and relief.During the event, teams had to have at least one member walking around the track from sun down May 3 to sun rise May 4. Each of the 79 teams walked for a reason, sometimes it was a student club and other times it was for a person, like Wendy’s Wacky Walkers.Earlier that week, Wendy team members attended a funeral for their friend Wendy White Bellenger, who died of gallbladder cancer. They ended the week by walking in her honor.The team members comprised school staff who had worked with Bellenger for years before she left her job as a P.E. aid at CISD’s Jack D. Johnson Elementary last summer.Sallie Wasson, P.E. teacher at Johnson Elementary and team captain, worked with Bellenger for 10 years.Wasson said her first lap was a mixture of feelings about Bellenger.“It’s a feeling of sadness to know she had to leave so early, but relief because she was in so much pain,” Wasson said.In addition to walking, the team decorated part of the track fence with their name and letters and a poster created by elementary students. Some students also wore purple in honor of Bellenger, a TCU fan. Some put together a lemonade stand to raise money.“The best feelings to come out of this ... our kids just did so much on their own,” Wasson said. “The kids had so much compassion for her.”The event hosted students from from elementary schools to graduating seniors, like Shelly Laroche, a Carroll Senior High School student.She said it’s a good experience to share with friends.“I came out to support friends and loved ones that have lost their lives to cancer,” she said.Julie Thannum, event communications chairwoman, said the event does so well because of Carroll ISD families.“This community loves to come together for a cause,” she said. “The cause of cancer research does hit home, even for our youngest Dragons.“They want hope, want to make a difference. They want to know they can do something,” she said.Since its creation in 1985, Relay For Life has grown to become a world-wide event and has raised more than $4 billion, according to representatives with the American Cancer Society.
Dustin L. Dangli, 817-390-7770 Twitter: @dussssstin