Painting Kutztown purple for Relay for Life

Patriot photo by Roxanne Richardson Betty Kutz of Kutztown hangs a purple sign for Relay for Life in Kutztown.

Purple Relay for Life signs will soon be lining Main Street, Kutztown, from one end to the other spilling into the peripheral streets and then out along Noble Street.

Every year in May, these signs (in memory, for survivors, and for sponsorship) have helped raise thousands of dollars for The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, Kutztown.

The program was started by Kutztown resident Betty Kutz in 2005 with the sale of 53 signs. Last year, teams for the Relay sold 421 signs bringing in $21,000 before expenses.

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For nine years, Kutz planned the annual sign sale for the teams. She attended town meetings in order to get the necessary permits and then drew a new map every year marking where each sign would be placed.

“I have to map everything out ahead of time; I have to walk the whole distance ahead of time and drive it. Things change in Kutztown. Trees go down, poles get taken away, or you can’t use certain poles because shrubbery or poison ivy has grown up on it,” said Kutz.

The day before the event, Kutz checks to make sure all of the signs are intact in the proper place and have bows attached. While she may do all the planning, she has the help of dedicated friends to place each sign.

Joann Schuler, Rose Mary Davis, Ethel Demateo, Brian Beck and Sallie Mitchell are the life savers Betty counts on whether it’s rain, shine or four o’clock in the morning to help with the cleaning and putting up of signs along the streets of Kutztown every year.

“The whole idea when we first decided to do it, the plan was to go from one end of town to the other end of town and eventually if we could get Topton and Fleetwood and come around in a circle,” Kutz said and laughed. “Last year was the first year we went past Renninger’s Market; last year was the longest.”

It is important for Kutz to know exactly where each sign is because of calls from people who want to know where their sign is placed so they can take a picture for verification that the sign is up. By keeping a detailed map, she is able to keep track of whose sign went where and if any need replacing.

Kutz said it’s impossible to give location preferences other than for the major sponsors who have contributed thousands to the cause. Their signs are placed at key locations where there is traffic. Although the sponsor signs do not have phone numbers or addresses, they do advertise which businesses supported the annual cancer walk.

“When we started it, people went around and other business realized their sign wasn’t up when people asked, where’s your sign? They called up the last minute and asked, can I get a sign up? I got my sign maker to make it up that day and I’d put it up before the event,” said Kutz. “People notice and will remark about it.”

After nine years, Kutz has made the decision to make 2013 her last because of health and taking care of her father and while she doesn’t know who the new guardian of the signs will be, she heard there is someone who may be stepping in her miles and miles of footsteps.

For more information about Sponsor, Survivor, and Memory signs, call Betty Kutz at 610-683-3379 or 610-780-5147 or e-mail kfoot@ptd.net.