The Delaware County Relay For Life reached its $1 million milestone last weekend, one that might have seemed preposterous seven years ago during the first relay at the American Legion Field in Delhi.

When the counting was done this year, the dedicated teams had once again convinced people to dig deep into their pockets, even during a recession. The total at the end of the overnight marathon was $147,094, bringing the seven-year tally to $1,001,094.

The Sidney Federal Credit Union team led the charge, raising $12,212, with the National Bank of Delaware County Stompers second with $11,920.

The Sidney Federal team, led by Lisa Favret, came up with a winning fundraiser proposed by team member Jan Bowker. They made beaded bracelets, with each color of bead representing a different type of cancer.

Favret said the bracelets sold so fast that she recruited her father help keep up with demand.

People countywide and beyond have been sporting the bracelets in the multicolored and special-order variations. They are still on sale.

In the Stamford area, it was potato bags that pushed the Stompers to the top of the fundraising ladder. The name conjures up a sack of potatoes, but that is a far cry from the function of the hand-quilted bags, which are perfect for baking a single potato in the microwave.

Joyce Jaret, one of the Stompers leaders, said she saw the potato bags at a craft fair and decided to borrow the idea. The bags absorb the moisture when the potato bakes, resulting in a fluffy potato with a nice skin. She said they also work well to heat up taco shells.

Jaret said she began making the bags using any scraps of material she could find, but people were soon requesting bags adorned with cats, dogs and a variety of other themes. By the end of the fundraiser, more than 500 bags had been sewn and sold.

There are other unique ways these groups raise money, as anyone who has been flocked by the pink flamingos can attest, and I am sure there will be more original fundraisers at next year's Relay.

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Delaware County's drug court graduation on Monday was a wonderful experience for the five people who completed the program, but it was also very moving for everyone else.

Delaware County Judge Carl Becker revealed why he is so passionate about the struggle to help people overcome addictions.

"You cannot sit by and watch your neighbor or friends deteriorate," Becker said. "I had two cousins that died as a direct result of substance abuse.

"It's a distinct privilege to participate as the judge in this court and also an honor," Becker continued. "It's wonderful to see people restored to good health and solid lives."

There was no better example of a transformation than Danielle O'Keeff.

When O'Keeff originally appeared in court and admitted she stole her father's debit card, she weighed a mere 86 pounds and looked very ill.

O'Keeff now glows as she talks about her new life, and she credits her father with saving her life.

Another graduate tackled two addictions at once. Becker congratulated that participant for quitting smoking while also conquering an addiction to alcohol.

As each of the graduates was presented with a certificate, Becker also gave them a watch he had inscribed with their names and the date of the graduation.

"The watches, which I purchase myself, represent their recovery, one day, one minute, one second at a time," he said.

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Delhi Bureau Reporter Patricia Breakey covers Delaware County.

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