Twenty years ago, the Wayne Farms Decatur Relay for Life charity golf tournament started as a small, afternoon match for a few tee sponsors and a handful of teams. Two decades later, the tournament has become a fundraising powerhouse for the American Cancer Society, bringing in nearly $1.5 million for the charity over the years. 

The maxed-out field of 35 teams for this year is a far cry from the original 15 team, single-flight event when it began in 2006. Today, the tournament’s line up of corporate supporters, including nine-year sponsor and Wayne Farms supplier Messer industrial gases, have helped drive the fundraising tally to new heights and place Wayne Farms Decatur in the ACS nationwide top-ten for ten consecutive years. Last year’s $109,000 total helped drive the Decatur area ACS effort to be named the top Relay for Life fundraiser in the country. This year’s $112,000 tally topped last year’s effort, and company officials, including president and CEO Clint Rivers, were quick to acknowledge team members, sponsors and organizers who made it possible. “Watching this tournament grow and make the impact it has over the years--we’re proud of our team and proud to be partners with the sponsors who support us and this outstanding cause,” said Rivers. 

Advertisement

The $1 million plus tournament history lesson begins with Wayne Farms’ Becky Patrick, who picked up oversight of management of the tournament in 2012. The following year, Patrick revamped the informal sponsor process into a more defined program with sponsorship levels and increased team donations. It’s no coincidence that fundraising tripled shortly thereafter, and Wayne Farms Decatur became a top Relay for Life fundraising team. “Messer (then Linde) became our first major sponsor and has held that title ever since,” said Patrick, noting that 2013 was the first year the tournament exceeded $100,000 for Relay for Life. Since those early years, Wayne Farms Decatur has been named a Relay “Legacy Team” for fundraising efforts totaling more than $1 million and was recently honored by ACS with the opportunity for naming rights to a three-year extramural research grant focusing on ovarian cancer. 

“We’re maxed out every year now with players, sponsors and participants—it’s humbling to see our core vendors and suppliers step up and support Relay for Life and cancer research.” Patrick and the Wayne Farms Decatur team received the Pat Flynn Spirit of Relay Award in 2020, recognizing those embodying the spirit of the “mother of Relay” Pat Flynn. Patrick, who also serves on the Decatur/Morgan County Relay for Life Event Leadership team, spends her days as executive assistant to the Wayne Farms Decatur Prepared Food Complex leadership team.