Decade of fundraising
Oxford resident raises $102,000 in 10 years for Relay

OXFORD - Oxford resident Jackie Brown is probably one of the hardest working people in Newton County who doesn't have a job.

The 83-year-old cancer survivor has raised more than $102,000 for Newton County's Relay for Life in the last 10 years. And somehow she finds time for other volunteer work.

More than 50 years ago, Brown was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Since then, she has lost her husband, a daughter and her father, in addition to six other family members, to different forms of cancer.

Now, she and her granddaughter, Kathy Lynch of Conyers, are the two cancer survivors of the family, and Brown wants to see the disease cured.

"In my lifetime, there's been a cure for polio, so why can't I see a cure for cancer?" Brown said. "I hope some day I'll see a cure for cancer."

If a cure is developed, many will say Brown helped the cause.

During Friday's opening ceremonies for Newton County's Relay for Life held at Sharp Stadium, Reuel Johnson, the national vice president for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, presented her with a plaque in recognition and appreciation for her outstanding dedication and fundraising efforts by raising more than $102,000 in the last 10 years.

"It was very special," said Victoria Patrick, senior community manager for Newton County's Relay for Life, adding that Johnson doesn't make it to many local events. "She's a wonderful volunteer. She's always happy and always going."

Brown said raising so much money is "wonderful."

"I just wanted to do volunteer work," Brown said about how she got involved with Relay for Life. "That was my goal - $100,000. I didn't think I'd ever make it."

Throughout the year, Brown said she hand writes hundreds of letters to individuals and companies - locally and afar - asking for money for Relay for Life.

The first year she started raising money for the Relay effort, Brown said she only raised about $1,000. So, she expanded her efforts.

"It increased every year after that," she said.

Almost every year since, Brown raised more than $10,000; in 2005, she raised more than $18,000. This year, she raised more than $12,000 from people and businesses in Newton and Rockdale counties, New York, New Jersey, Texas and other places around the country.

Brown, who was born in LaGrange and has lived in Newton County since 1961, also holds a bake sale each Friday during bingo at VFW Post 5290 in Conyers, where she sells cakes, cookies and pies.

In addition to raising money for Relay for Life, Brown makes about 100 afghans each year for nursing homes.

"I feel like I'm doing something for people," she said. "It makes me happy."

This year, Newton County's Relay for Life collected about $290,000, just under the organization's goal of raising $300,000, Patrick said, but it will continue to collect funds until the end of August.

"If we don't make it, we will come very close," she said. "It was our biggest crowd we've ever had; if I guessed, I'd say we had over 3,000 (participants)."

Rockdale County's Relay for Life was also held last weekend at the Georgia International Horse Park. That event raised $288,000, surpassing its goal of $260,000. More than 1,200 people participated, said Michelle Meyer, staff partner for Rockdale's Relay for Life.

Brown said she will continue to raise money as long as she's physically able.

"I'm already collecting for next year," she said as she held a stack of about 50 envelopes ready to be mailed. "I want to continue as long as I can."

Anyone who would like to donate to Relay for Life can send Brown a check, made out to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 1240, Oxford, GA 30054.

"I hope some day there will be a cure," Brown said.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd @newtoncitizen.com.