How does Paula know so many people? All of them have been touched in some way by cancer and Rosnage has met them through her work with the Calvert County American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay for Life.
Volunteering for Relay for Life is “my pride and joy,” Rosnage says. “I got involved in 1999 when my mother passed away from cancer. She only had a short 11-month bout with it,” she says, as if the short duration was a blessing. At the time, Rosnage was traveling from Calvert County to Pensacola, Fla., to care for her mom.
While still mourning her mother’s death, Paula attended the Relay for Life at Calvert High to help her process her grief. She was amazed by the number of people there – both survivors and supporters. “It just drew me in. We have a lot of cancer in this area,” she says. “Once I saw the people at the [relay], I thought, ‘If I participate maybe my grandchildren won’t have to have a Relay for Life.’”
The following year she volunteered as a team captain, and each year since she has been more involved. She became the event’s chairperson in 2009.
The Calvert Relay for Life is a 12-hour, all-night event that now takes place at Hallowing Point Park in Prince Frederick. It’s part carnival, part memorial service, part pep rally and all fundraiser. Starting in October, teams raise money to benefit the ACS in various ways. Car washes, candy bar sales, bar nights, “paint your hair purple” and kiss-a-pig events – the list of fundraisers is long and creative. Last year a team from Calvert Elementary raised nearly $600 by selling pieces of duct tape so students could tape the vice principal to a wall.
All the efforts culminate on one summer night with the Relay for Life. The event is 100-percent volunteer driven, and 100 percent of the money spent at the event goes directly to the ACS. More than 2,500 people participated on 142 teams last year. They raised a collective $478,000. Next year’s event is on June 15.
“We’re the number-one cancer fundraiser in the state per capita,” Rosnage says, and the fifth in the U.S. in online donations. Rosnage is also very proud that the bulk of those funds come from individuals, but readily acknowledges that the relay wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the support of the community.
Help comes in many forms and from many places, such as Bowen’s Grocery, which donates food, and J&J Portable Toilets and Septic Service, which lends the portable toilets for the event. Eagle Scout Bobby Ross from Troop 903 in Huntingtown painted the 26 highly recognizable “purple feet” signs that promote the relay.
“I’m always amazed at the generosity and caring from our neighbors, friends, family and businesses,” Rosnage says. “We live in a wonderful community and I am so proud to be part of this.”
A tireless grandmother of four, Rosnage also volunteers with the Calvert County Lions Club, organizing scrapbook crops with Barbara Lingle. The pair has raised more than $35,000 for Lions Club programs benefiting Calvert County. All of this is in addition to Rosnage’s full-time job as a federal account manager in private industry. In September, she was named one of Calvert County’s Most Beautiful People through the Calvert You are Beautiful Program for her dedication and volunteer contributions as much as her spirit and energy.
Yet it’s the spirit of Paula’s mother that motivates her: “It’s a great joy for me to feel I’m making a difference in someone’s life. I feel she’s looking down on me and I hope she’s proud.” ✦
To learn more about the Calvert Relay for Life, visit www.cancer.org and click on “Get Involved.”