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HOPE raises record amount

ALBANY, Ga. -- The American Cancer Society's fifth annual HOPE Ball held earlier this month raised a lot of HOPE and money, $78,622 to be exact, officials coordinating the function said.

The gala, held Feb. 4 at the Hilton Garden Inn, raised $41,000 last year and $48,675 the year before.

The funds raised will aid the American Cancer Society in programs and services that help cancer patients in the region. The event included an auction with items including a one-week trip aboard a yacht off the coast of Turkey and more than one hunting trip.

The fundraising goal was $45,000.

Each year, the gala recognizes an honoree, generally a local cancer survivor. This year, Eric Venable, a testicular cancer survivor, was selected by HOPE Ball officials.

"We are just so excited," said Julie Sellers, a member of the HOPE Ball Committee, of the amount of funds raised. "Our honoree worked tirelessly (to rally community support).

"We all could not believe it. We were almost at our goal before the auction started. This was so much more than we ever thought we could raise."

Last year, Ward Wright, a child from the Albany area who battled neuroblastoma for 18 months before being declared in remission, was the honoree.

Sellers said that nearly reaching the goal before the event's auction could be partly attributed to sponsorships as well as ticket sales.

"This raises the bar high," Sellers said of ambitions for next year's event. "We'll never know how much we could raise.

"The people there (at the gala) had a lot of fun. There were two members of The Hollywood Band (which played music at the function) impacted by cancer. They didn't take a break; they played all through the night."

Sellers added that the committee is continuing to add new members.

"This is our way of finding a cure," she said. "People don't know what the American Cancer Society does for the community."