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ACS awards inaugural Pat Flynn Spirit of Relay Award

On Jan. 14, ACS CEO Gary Reedy presented the first Pat Flynn Spirit of Relay Award to students at Father Ryan High School in Nashville, TN.

Students at the private coeducational Roman Catholic school have raised $1.2 million over 10 years for the American Cancer Society, created the largest student-led Relay For Life, per capita, in the nation, and attracted more than 1,000 people to its 2019 Relay last October.

This new nomination-based award is given in memory of Pat Flynn, known as the "Mother of Relay," who inspired Relay participants around the world. This award honors an event or individual that embodies the same spirit of Relay that Pat Flynn embodied.

The inspirational awards ceremony was attended by many local dignitaries and was covered by local TV stations. Among those present were the Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding, Catholic Bishop of Nashville; Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Diocese; Jim McIntyre, president of Father Ryan High School; Michelle Mast and Jonathan McGee, moderators of Relay For Life at Father Ryan; Elizabeth Elfers, dean of Campus Ministry and Student Life; and Tim Forbes, the former dean of Campus Ministry who started Relay For Life on the Father Ryan campus in 2009. 

Representing ACS were Bill Cance, MD, our chief medical and scientific officer; Wayne White, EVP, North Central Region; and Jeff Kean, chair of the American Cancer Society Board of Directors.

In his remarks, Gary called the students "extraordinary" He talked about their creative fundraisers, including raising $1,500 in 60 seconds through the "Miracle Minute." The students also had penny wars, benefit concerts, and donated hair for wigs.

Gary told those assembled that the students and their supporters are part of the world's largest peer-to-peer fundraising event to save lives from cancer. Since 1985, Relay For Life has raised nearly $6.5 billion. In 2018, 1.6 million people in the U.S. participated in more than 2,500 events and raised $185 million across the country.

"I know cancer hit really close to home for you all with the passing of two members of the Father Ryan family last year," Gary said. "It is because of you and the broader Relay For Life community that we can conduct breakthrough research, provide free rides to treatment, places to stay near hospitals, and a live 24/7 cancer helpline.

"Passionate, dedicated youth like you are changing the course of this disease. You are our greatest hope for fighting cancer. Your spirit and dedication are what put you at the very top of the over 2,000 nominees for the inaugural Pat Flynn Spirit of Relay Award," he said.

Accepting the plaque were Relay co-chairs, students Madison Ahern and Danny Farone. 

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