HELENA, Mont. (7/19/13)--Hope is the foundation of the Relay for Life--the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society--and Montana's credit unions have collectively made a substantial impact in recent years, according to the Montana Credit Union Network.
"Everybody has been affected by cancer," said Ryan Combs, co-chair of the Billings-based Altana FCU Relay for Life team. "So many people pour their heart and soul into this fundraiser because they want to see a cure so badly that they are willing to do whatever it takes."
Fergus FCU has been involved with the Relay for Life since it began in Lewistown 11 years ago. Its team raises funds through events, including a Bunco tournament, bake sales, root beer float Fridays, picnics and raffles. Typically their efforts generate about $5,000 but their record for one year is $14,000.
The original Relay for Life started in 1985 with one man, Gordy Klatt, who wanted to show what someone fighting cancer endures. He ran around a track for 24 hours and raised $27,000. A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event and today it's caught on worldwide. Thirty-four Montana communities are holding Relays this summer.
In Circle, Relay for Life was started with the help of staff at McCone County FCU. This year, 10 teams in the community have already raised nearly $14,000. This is the second year that McCone County FCU has had its own relay team.
Fundraising efforts are varied and tailored to each community. Some have organized summer barbeques and gift-wrapping at the holidays with free-will donations. Others offer raffles for trips or motorcycles.
The Giant Springs Chapter of Credit Unions sponsored ice cream sales that every credit union participated in this year, raising more than $1,800. Lael Humble with Montana First FCU in Missoula said the ice cream sales were a big hit. Additional money raised from other collected donations and book mark sales brought the total to $2,750.
In Livingston, the Sky FCU Super Heroes Team is looking to raise $2,000 this year. Staff at High Peaks FCU in Sheridan is on Team Rudy, which raised more than $9,500. In the past five years, Park Side FCU in the Flathead area has donated nearly $9,000, and Altana FCU more than $100,000.