By Matthew Terwilliger
Students at Vestavia Hills High School found inspiration to break fundraising records at Relay for Life this year.
The event was dedicated to Vestavia Hills High School librarian Evelyn Gordon, who lost her battle with cancer the same day students kicked off the 2011 Relay for Life fundraising campaign in January. Evelyn had been a librarian at the school for 12 years.
“This year’s Relay was very special because we had just lost Evelyn,” said Jennifer Carson, who teaches science at the high school. “Her presence in our school and in our lives will be missed.”
In all, the fundraiser raised more than $170,000 for the American Cancer Society, surpassing the students’ goal by more than $20,000.
Last year, the high school raised about $145,000 for Relay and took first place in its six-state division for the top youth fundraising event. While awards have not been handed out yet for this year, students are confident they will win again.
“I’m really proud of our committee and the students and faculty for stepping up to reach our goal this year,” said event co-chairman Laura Freeman.
Students hosted several events leading up to the April 9 all-night relay at the school. Teachers even got into the spirit and formed their own Relay team, Team Gordon, to honor their former colleague.
“Evelyn was the impetus behind the push to reach and surpass our goal this year,” said librarian Cathy Manis, who worked with Evelyn. “She was the most genuinely kind person I ever met.”
In addition to being a librarian, Evelyn was also a member of the Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, where she volunteered time to the Hospitality Network and other ministries.
She was married to Curtis Gordon for 39 years and had two sons, David and Jonathan Gordon, as well as two granddaughters, Emma and Sarah Gordon. Evelyn also had a brother, David Hays, and two sisters, Frances Dillender and Mary Lipscomb
Team Gordon was one of more than 80 teams that raised money to fight cancer and increase awareness during Vestavia High’s Relay campaign.
Other fundraising events included Hoops for Hope and Relax for Relay, where students could donate money in order to wear pajamas to school. The school also had a cell phone/electronics drive, talent show, student-faculty basketball game and restaurant fundraisers at places like Mugshots and Yogurt Lab. They organized a Relay Rave at the Vestavia Lodge, where students enjoyed music played by a student D.J.
“It’s nice to see students come together for something other than football games,” said Alex Perez, co-chairman for the event. “There are no particular groups or cliques that run the entire show – everyone helps out.”
More than 1,000 students participated in this year’s Relay. To ensure the continued success of the fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, students are in charge of selecting their own committee chairmen each year, and seniors mentor fellow classmates before graduating.
The event has continued to grow every year since Vestavia’s first Relay for Life in 2002.
“There are a lot of students in our community that have had family affected by cancer, so it is good to see everyone get together to fight the disease,” said Kristin McDonald, who is an American Cancer Society staff partner. Kristin also praised the Vestavia Hills school system for being supportive of the student fundraising and other efforts that go into Relay for Life.