Huntington resident asking people to pitch in shoes as part of Relay for Life fund-raiser

Deb Christman, a dietary aide at Parkview Huntington Hospital, holds just a few of the new and gently used shoes she has collected for the upcoming Huntington County Relay for Life. A hospital-wide drive to collect shoes will begin March 1. Drop-off boxes will be located in the hospital lobby and the public is invited to help fill them with all types of footwear.
Deb Christman, a dietary aide at Parkview Huntington Hospital, holds just a few of the new and gently used shoes she has collected for the upcoming Huntington County Relay for Life. A hospital-wide drive to collect shoes will begin March 1. Drop-off boxes will be located in the hospital lobby and the public is invited to help fill them with all types of footwear. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Feb. 25, 2016.

Debra Christman has seen far too many family members and friends succumb to cancer. She’s enlisting the support of everyone she knows to fight the disease, and she wants their shoes to do it.
The Huntington resident, who is a dietary aide at Parkview Huntington Hospital, has continued the fight for the past 10 years as a participant and team captain in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Her indignation at being among the living “victims” affected by cancer fuels her actions.

“The loss of my family members and cousins and friends,” she says, when asked why she gets involved to raise money and walk the track during the event. “My sister was only 49 years old when she died, so I was angry and wanted revenge. So I started Relay for Life.”
At least 16 teams have already signed up to participate in the 2016 Huntington County Relay for Life, set for June 11 and 12, at Kriegbaum Field at Huntington North High School, says 2016 Event Lead Sara Brown. She says teams raise money for the event in a variety of ways.
“I’m constantly amazed at people’s creativity. What people will actually do — the cause, unfortunately, is so close to so many of us — people are really willing to do it.”

Brown says several teams either have held or will be doing a painting-type party, in which they pay for a painting “lesson,” coming away with a picture they’ve created themselves. Others have garage or bake sales, sell products such as laundry detergent and partner with local restaurants to raise money.
“There are things done before Relay, which is really where the majority of the money is made, before the event ever happens,” Brown says. “And then, a lot of the teams do some sort of fund-raising at the event, whether it’s selling food or having a silent auction or something like that.”
This year’s local Relay for Life theme is “A Passport to a Cancer-Free World.” Between now and June 11 there will likely be fund-raiser opportunities based on the theme or the national theme, “Paint Your World Purple.”
“Overall, I would just urge people to get involved,” Brown adds. “We automatically think about raising money for a cure and working toward a cure, which we, of course, want, but Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society also fund a lot of initiatives on preventing certain kinds of cancers. There are preventative things that can be done, so that’s another reason to do Relay.”

Christman is leading her team, Jill’s Angels — named after Jill Dreyer, a nurse at PHH who died of cancer — to pitch their shoes in to combat the disease. And she is challenging the entire hospital to get mad enough to throw their own footwear at the disease and raise money toward finding cures.
Christman has already collected around 50 pairs of new and gently-used shoes all on her own, so far, but she is confident that others can find shoes they no longer wear to add to the collection drive. She’s looking for shoes of all sizes, from infants to adults, and all types, from sandals to work boots.

The group has partnered with an organization called Funds2orgs, which sends a truck to pick up the shoes, weighs them and gives the fund-raisers a set amount per pound. They then send them to workers in countries who can refurbish and resell them.
“They take these shoes and send them overseas to countries where they don’t have a lot of shoes,” Christman says.
She especially wants to collect black-colored sho-es, saying they are generally valued more than other colors.
“In Haiti, kids cannot go to school unless they have a black pair of shoes,” she explains. “One Angel team member is on a mission to only collect black shoes.”
Parkview Hospital, whi-ch sponsors the Jill’s
Cont. on Pg. 4
 Angels team, has also thrown its support behind the shoe collection. The kick-off shoe-raiser will begin March 1, with collection boxes located in the lobby and other high-traffic areas of the hospital.
“We were so pleased to see how engaged coworkers were with the United Way book drive,” says PHH Community/Media Relations Specialist Leslie Megison. “So we have high hopes with this drive. Our co-workers are so generous.”
Megison says boxes will be decorated in the Relay for Life colors of purple (to celebrate the survivors), red (for the fight) and blue (to remember). While hospital employees will be fueling the drive with their contributions, the public is also encouraged to help out as well.
New to gently-used men’s, women’s and children’s shoes are welcome, including Crocs and Baby Crocs, Skechers walkers, infant booties, tennis shoes, work boots, slippers and dress shoes. Christman says her goal is to make at least $2,000 from the drive.
“Everybody can get in there and clean out their closet,” Christman says. “My cousin put on Facebook that she recently cleaned out 15 pairs, and I wrote, ‘I want those shoes!’”
Christman says even if she makes only $2 from selling the donated shoes, if it helps find one cure it will be worth all the effort. The Relay for Life is a great time for people to come together and show their solidarity.
“I want cancer to be gone,” she insists. “It affects not just me, but everybody … Help celebrate a loved one or remember a loved one. We want to pack that track this year until we’re shoulder to shoulder.”
More information about Relay for Life of Huntington County can be found on Facebook, emailing hngeventlead@outlook.com or by calling 344-0113.