Whether they were sipping freshly brewed hot teas or quenching a thirst with a refreshing iced tea, the attendees at a recent tea party knew that each sip of tea was intended to strike a blow in the fight against cancer.
The women at Sunset Freewill Baptist Church threw their tea party Saturday, April 13, as a fun event to raise funds to fight cancer, and they invited some friends.
As a result, the event attracted a large turnout of women eager to do their part in the fight against cancer while also enjoying some Christian fellowship and, of course, tea.
Lenora Cox, who serves as co-captain for the Sunset Stompers Relay For Life team, organized the event, which she described as a Relay Charity Tea.
“We had a blast,” she said.
Cox began planning the fundraiser back in January while brainstorming with 2013 Carter County Relay Chair Kristi Smith, who also attends Sunset FWB.
“We thought about a mother-daughter banquet, but we wanted to include women who may not have mothers or daughters,” Cox explained.
Cox said they decided to stage a high tea, complete with refreshments, door prizes, games and entertainment.
“My cousin and I used to have tea parties all the time,” Cox said.
Smith noted that no other Relay team to her knowledge has ever held a Ladies Tea for a fundraiser.
“We asked every woman in the church to invite some friends,” Cox said. Those attending the event were asked to offer a $10 donation and bring a creatively wrapped gift worth about $5.
Cox explained that the gifts needed to be wrapped in a creative fashion in order to compete for one of the door prizes.
“We gave out door prizes for best wrapped gift, best hat and best shoes,” she said.
Attendees voted on their favorites in each of these categories.
• Best Hat: Cheryl Richenberg
• Best Shoes: Cheryl Bowers and Katie Burchett
• Best Wrapped Gift: Kim Ensor
The younger girls at the event received “American Girls” books.
“They loved them,” Cox said.
Entertainment was provided by cloggers Vanessa Cox and Kaitlin Winters, who perform with Kristi’s Dance and Gymnastics.
Naturally, the event offered lots of tea.
“We had unsweetened tea, sweet tea, iced tea and lots of hot teas,” Cox said.
Cox said she supplied the hot teas while Judy Stevens Curtis brought the others.
“We also had a lot of wonderful food,” Cox added.
Smith and Cox deemed the tea a great success.
“It was a chance to dress up and act silly while also enjoying some Christian fellowship and raising a lot of money to fight cancer,” Cox said.
“In one way or another, everyone’s lives these days have been touched by cancer,” Smith said. “Even though our church is somewhat small, we have a total of 17 cancer survivors.”
Smith said four of those survivors beat breast cancer.
“This year for Relay we have chosen to make breast cancer our cancer of choice to support,” Smith said.
“I personally cannot imagine my life without these ladies that are breast cancer survivors in our church,” Cox said. “I feel that the $10 that we asked everyone to donate was minimal to the cost that each cancer patient endures.”
Cox said she was reminded of the song, “Thank You,” that she listens to on Christian radio.
“I can see it now,” Cox said. “Someone special walking up to you in heaven and saying thank you for that $10 donation you gave to the Tea at Sunset in 2013. It went to help fund a cure for me!”
Smith said the tea turned out to be a really great event.
“Everyone had a great time, and several people have already asked the team to do another tea,” she said. “There were ladies that were there who were young and old.”
At two weeks old, Evvie Sherrill was the youngest of the attendees. Ann Richenberg and Anna Beccue, both 87, were honored as the oldest attendees present.
“Cancer effects both the young and old,” Smith continued. “It knows no bounds. In today’s society, where there are so many negatives, I think it’s amazing when you can get a group together and talk about the good things and the blessings that God has blessed us with rather than gloom and doom.”
Survivors were also honored during the tea.
“One lady came up to me and said she felt loved and special,” Cox said.
Smith said Sunset FWB got involved with the Relay For Life several years ago when 8-month-old Gabriel Gouge was diagnosed with leukemia. Today, he is cancer free.
His mother, Amy, got the first Relay team organized at the church.
These days, Gabriel’s favorite catch phrase is “No more chemo.”
Cox said Gabriel provided the inspiration for the Relay team’s theme this year.
“We were to choose a fairy-tale or Disney theme,” Cox explained.
The team chose a theme based on the film, “Finding Nemo,” with a few modifications.
She said this year’s theme will be “Finding Nomo.” Nomo, she said, is a pink fish that reflects the emphasis this year on breast cancer. Nomo is also a condensed version of Gabriel’s “no more chemo” slogan.
Smith said she thinks it is important to think of ways to keep Relay For Life fresh and creative.
“I think we tend to do the same thing over and over,” she said. “I think new events help give the participants something to really look forward to.”
Smith also noted that the goal of Relay For Life is not just to raise money, but to also raise awareness about the programs the American Cancer Society offers, as well as promoting awareness of how many cancers can be prevented and treated with early detection.
“Our ultimate goal is to wipe out cancer,” she said.
The men at Sunset FWB will also get a chance to do their part for Relay For Life. Cox said the men of the church plan a fishing tournament later this spring.
The benefit tea raised around $700 for the team. Proceeds will be donated later this year to the ACS.
If you are not familiar with Relay For Life or the American Cancer Society, call the local ACS office at 975-0635 or Kristi Smith at 725-5189. Smith also welcomes the public to make plans now to attend the Carter County Relay on June 21 at Elizabethton High School.