By Andrew McCue

News Staff

Ask Kathie Webb why she invests so much time in Relay for Life of Exeter, or why she is determined to stay awake for the entire 24-hour event this weekend, and she's likely to say the American Cancer Society fundraiser is simply too important to ignore.

More than three years ago, Webb began working with Relay for Life by calling local American Cancer Society representatives, who put her in touch with a team that needed walkers.

Then she formed the Smiles for Miles team, which draws most of its membership for the 2006 event from employees at Richard A. Zuber Realty.

"Rich [Zuber] has been very supportive in sponsoring our tent site, making announcements at staff meetings and allowing advertising in the Zuber Newsletter," said Webb, captain of the Smiles for Miles team for two years.

After the captain's meeting last week, Webb felt confident that her team would reach its goal.

Relay for Life of Exeter will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11. Members of 32 teams will walk the quarter-mile track at Central Catholic High School during the 24-hour event, which also features around-the-clock activities and entertainment.

"It stays noisy. It's like a party for 24 hours," Webb said. The 15 members on her team will walk in groups of three.

Besides the continual walking, this year's Relay for Life will feature an Iron Chef Contest, the band Three In A Tree, Relay Rugby and other activities.

Stephanie McDonald of the American Cancer Society said Relay for Life National Vice President Reuele Johnson will visit the Exeter event this year. Also appearing will be Garry Pincock and Gene Perry, the CEO and director of the American Cancer Society's Pennsylvania chapter, respectively.

Sen. Michael A. O'Pake will join the relay during the Survivors Lap, which kicks off the event on Saturday at 10 a.m.

"The point is cancer has to be the scariest word in the English language, and early detection is the key," said O'Pake, a nine-year survivor of cancer. He said the relay heightens awareness and raises money for a good cause.

McDonald, coordinator of the Exeter, Reading, Western Berks and Twin Valley Relay for Life events, said the Exeter event raised more than $75,000 last year. This year's goal is to raise $81,000.

Webb has been working to raise money for the American Cancer Society all year. Her secret, she said, is to be persistent with those who pledge money.

"They told me to remind them," she said, "and I'm doing that."

McDonald said donations continue coming in until August, but the 2006 Exeter event has so far raised $50,000, more than the relay has ever raised before it began.

For the Kathie Webb, Relay for Life is a family affair. Daughter Shelly is co-team captain and will be selling bracelets she made to raise funds at the team tent. Her husband Eric Webb, sports editor of The Southern Berks News, will be doing his part too.

On Saturday at 9 p.m. there will be a luminaria ceremony, and the Webbs have will light four luminaries.

"For Eric's parents and my parents," Kathie Webb said.

"Last year, it was 105 degrees, and it was miserable, but we were grateful that they turned on the lawn sprinklers."

It is a very emotional weekend. Webb said each year she meets some of the cancer survivors.

"Some of those people don't make it back, and that's tough," she said.

To volunteer, donate or to learn more about the Relay For Life of Exeter call Stephanie McDonald at 610-921-2329.

Contact reporter Andrew McCue

at 610-367-6041, ext. 225 or

anmccue@berksmontnews.com.

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