Hound Dogs raising money for McCann

Published 9:17 am Sunday, March 25, 2007

Every dollar raised by the Natchez Hound Dogs is a love note to Janet.

Judging by the efforts thus far, the notes will top $10,000 for sure — and perhaps $15,000, the figure the late Janet McCann threw out as a challenge before succumbing to cancer earlier this year.

Amanda Criswell, McCann’s niece, said she organized the Hound Dogs Relay for Life team when her aunt discovered the cancer that had been in remission was active within her once again.

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“I started the team for her, and about a week later she said, ‘I want us to raise $10,000,’” Criswell said.

“Then when she heard that $15,000 was the most raised by a team last year, she said, ‘We can beat that. I know we can do that.’”

Well, McCann was right. The 45-plus members of the team will take part in the annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life on May 4 at the Vidalia Riverfront, and they likely will go into the event with more than $15,000 in the bank, Criswell said.

The team has published a cookbook and has orders for 700 so far. McCann was a longtime food services director for the Natchez public schools and was well known for her culinary skills. The book includes some of her favorite recipes.

The family is planning a huge garage sale, Criswell said. And her husband, Nelson, and their two daughters are selling lemonade on Saturdays in front of the Main Street business One of a Kind.

“We come from a big family,” Amanda Criswell said. “We do things full force.”

The chairman of this year’s Relay for Life Julia Drews said the year-long preparations are falling into place, with 46 teams and more than 30 sponsors already lined up to take part in the all-night event that begins at 6 p.m.

Drews holds meetings monthly with team captains to keep them informed of plans.

“And right now we’re finalizing plans at the location. The Vidalia Riverfront is such a beautiful setting,” she said.

“We have to lay out the whole site to be sure every team has enough space.”

All teams are in fund-raising mode, she said. And the Relay continues to seek more corporate sponsors, falling into $2,500, $1,000, $500 and $250 categories.

Anyone wishing to make donations online may do so by going to the Web site, acsevents.org/relay/ms/misslou.

Most teams average 15 members, Drews said.

“We estimate we’ll have about 5,000 people there at 6 p.m. when all the survivors walk their lap.”

Entertainment will include a few surprises, Drews said.

“We’ll have a variety of things for children and adults.”

Most people who take part in the fundraiser stay until about midnight, Drews said.

Many remain throughout the night as a testament to their commitment to helping to fund cancer research.

Criswell said she cried when the Hound Dogs passed the $10,000 mark, as that was her aunt’s first dream for the team.

“But what I really loved about Aunt Janet was how she approached cancer,” Criswell said.

“It was never about her personal cancer. It was about cancer. She would say, ‘I don’t want anyone else to have to have cancer,’” Criswell said.

“That’s why I really want to support her and do this for her.”

McCann was a fan of Elvis Presley. That’s the inspiration for the team name, Hound Dogs.

“And we’re going to have a Blue Hawaii theme at the Relay,” Criswell said.