Gazette opinion: Relay for Life shows the best of Billings' community

2014-07-16T00:00:00Z 2014-07-18T15:31:04Z Gazette opinion: Relay for Life shows the best of Billings' community The Billings Gazette
July 16, 2014 12:00 am

Granted, many of the memorable headlines recently have painted a disturbing picture of Billings.

There are crimes, and it would seem that as Billings grows, crime trends do as well.

But in truth, that’s only half the story. As the community grows, we continue to experience record amounts of good deeds and community support. It may just be that those headlines aren’t as memorable because — well, Billings has always been a great place to live with great people.

Nowhere is there a better example of this than the Yellowstone County Relay for Life. In its 20th year, the annual event raised more than a half million dollars.

This year, Relay for Life also set a new record of number teams participating. As we continue to grow, we continue to grow in philanthropy, too.

This year a total of 1,500 people and 196 teams walked overnight on the track at West High.

Officials at the event estimate that between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended.

Also notable was the increase in the number of cancer survivors — an equally inspirational statistic. More cancer survivors hopefully mean more people are beating the deadly disease which touches nearly every single person’s life.

Final numbers will not be available until after the event fundraising is complete on Aug. 31, but the initial numbers continue to show Billings gets out and supports this worthy cause as it has for years.

Yellowstone County Relay for Life continues to earn awards for its community participation and involvement. Many communities have Relay for Life events, although not as many have such a successful or large turnout. It’s the third highest earning relay in the nation.

That is an honor that probably escapes folks around here because being generous and supporting a worthy cause is just a part of the Yellowstone and Billings area. But, let’s pause on this achievement.

Per capita, virtually nowhere else has the success or the track record that we do. And there are few diseases that cut a wider swath than cancer.

We’re proud that Billings and Yellowstone County is home to such a good, successful event. When we read about news happening, it’s important that events like the Relay for Life are not overlooked. They tell as much of a story as any of the crime stories, or stories of dysfunction. In other words, here’s something wonderful that’s going right in our community.

We should be — and indeed we are — proud.

Every year, the American Cancer Society puts out it Cancer Facts and Figures report which summarizes the types of cancer and the efforts to fight them. Behind the American government, the American Cancer Society is the second largest funder of cancer research in the world.

In 2014, ACS estimates 5,850 new cases of cancer in Montana. That’s more than the number of people living in some Montana towns, including Dillon, Hardin and Glendive.

Nationwide, the ACS estimates that there will be more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer reported. That’s more than the entire population of Montana.

Those statistics are sobering. But as long as there are new cases, we bet the Yellowstone County Relay for Life will be there.

That’s great news.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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