Moorhead honored at Relay for Life event

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Those participating in the 12th Annual American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Ripley County were blessed with perfect weather, a good crowd and enough enthusiasm to truly wipe cancer from the face of the earth.

The 24-hour relay took place Saturday, June 16 and Sunday June 17 at the Batesville High School track.

Just before the impressive kickoff that highlights cancer survivors, the crowd was welcomed and Mary Margaret Moorhead of Versailles, received an award named in her honor, the first of its kind. Each year the award will be given to an outstanding volunteer. Moorhead has been a volunteer for the American Cancer Society (ACS) for over 40 years and says that is her greatest accomplishment.

Area 12 Director of ACS, Amy Eden, took the podium and began, “The woman I am going to talk about is known by many of you. each of you she means something different.” Words used to describe the first recipient were: beautiful, charming, intelligent, loving, devoted, generous, and more. That set the stage for Moorhead to be the person to receive this award. “I am shocked!” Moorhead exclaimed, as she graciously accepted.

Moorhead has and is an avid supporter of the ACS and has served in numerous positions over the years. She was a member of the Great Lakes Division Board of Directors from 1997-2005; National Assembly Lay Division Delegate (1997-2005); member of the National Health Promotions Advisory Group (2003-2006); in 2002 and 2006 was an ambassador to the Celebration on the Hill in Washington DC; member of the Nominating & Recruiting Task (2003-2005); recipient of St. George National award in 1992; charter member of the Indianapolis Hope Lodge Board of Governors; past chair of the former Indiana Division Board, and member of the Division Advocacy Committee.

That impressive list is only a fraction of Moorhead’s lifetime accomplishments. She was named Ripley County Citizen of the Year in 2002, was an educator, along with her husband William (Gus), for many years in the South Ripley school district and has held many positions at her church, Versailles First Baptist.

A true community leader, Moorhead and husband Gus, have established a scholarship fund through the Ripley County Community Foundation to promote their love of education.

Saying the highlight of her tenure as a board member for the ACS was when Relay for Life was born in Ripley County. This signature event was formed and has since brought several hundred thousand dollars to cancer research.

Moorhead was reluctant to accept the accolades that accompanied the award and in her gracious style, she turned the tide and began praising others who work so hard to promote the eradication of a disease that has affected thousands.

Excitement mounted in the crowd as she told how Jac-Cen-Del, South Ripley and Milan schools alone raised almost $30,000 for this year’s relay. The total on bank night last week was well over $100,000. The total reported on Tuesday of this week by Carla Stenger was $131,800. This is the most Ripley County has ever raised and the amount will go even higher as donations continue to come in.
“We are making a difference... relay is working... this county is working,” Moorhead encouraged the group with her final chant, “Go, Fight, Win!”

Colors were presented by the Color Guard from the Military Department of Indiana Ceremonial Unit, who led the victory/survivors lap around the track. Some were in wheelchairs or riding on golf carts, but all were walking proud, as they made a statement, “I am a survivor.” The National Anthem played by the Eureka Band, completed the first part of the 24-hour event as balloons were released into the clear blue summer sky.

For the next 24 hours a variety of walkers and runners from area teams took their positions on the track, stamping out cancer with each step on the pavement.

Survivors were treated to breakfast provided by the Sherman House of Batesville. There they heard from Shawna Farina, a young lady who is a second generation cancer survivor. She told how her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in the first grade. Then history repeated itself and when her own daughter was in the first grade, she received the same bad news.

Twelve mammograms, numerous ultra sounds and consultations with doctors would bring the final results for Farina - she had cancer. She had multiple surgeries and began radical treatments of chemotherapy that made her deathly ill. “Mom, are you gonna die?” is a question she knew she had to fight. “Whenever I would think of giving up, I thought of my three children and husband,” she noted. That made her fight all the harder.

Today Farina is an advocate of Relay for Life. She admits she “got hooked” on the event and has had lots of fun at the family oriented event that promotes life. “Relays are my life,” she told the packed crowd. She said relays are instant family, encouraging everyone to “keep up the hard work.”

Last October Farina was to get the surprise of her life when Ty Pennington of Extreme Makeover Home Edition arrived on her doorstep. Not only did her family get a home makeover and a fabulous vacation to Orlando, FL, the famous TV show held a five day Relay for Life that benefited the ACS $36,000. “I was so mad because they were doing a relay without me,” she laughed, saying she was able to get in on the event at the end when she and her family returned from vacation.

Farina says she’s not sure of the exact date of the rerun of her family on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, but thought it could air again on Sunday, June 24.

Ending her speech on a positive note, she said, “It’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’ we find a cure for cancer,” encouraging those participating in the relay to keep on fighting.

From a variety of musical presentations, silent auction, cornhole tournament, luminary service, fashion show, to the final lap and closing ceremony, a group of people in Ripley County have changed the course of those who will or have been diagnosed with cancer.

This year’s relay was chaired by Karen Wallpe with Melissa Lecher as co-chairperson. A committee of 36 worked tirelessly to bring the event to life this year.

Relay for Life is the ACS signature event to raise awareness and funding to fight cancer. For more information call 1-800-ACS-2345 or go online at

Pictured from left are members of Mary Margaret Moorhead’s family who were in attendance as she received the first award named in her honor for all her work with the American Cancer Society at the 12th Annual Relay for Life held June 16 & 17 at Batesville: grandson, Bradley Moorhead, daughter Molly Moorhead of Loveland, OH, son Rob Moorhead of Aurora; and daughter Jane Rogers of Versailles, along with Moorhead, holding her award and flowers. Husband William (Gus) and daughter Jody Jordan of Naples, FL, were not able to attend the event.