Interoffice competition  and picking a graphic for the Victory Racers team T-shirt was on the agenda Wednesday. Two running shoes? Or a little race car?

The point was to portray urgency — the need for speed, for a coordinated team effort to race for a cure for cancer.

Family First Hospice CEO Bob Woods lost a grandfather and grandmother to cancer, and he sees that urgency in the Relay’s task.

“The event is important to assist and accelerate in finding a cure for cancer,” he said.

That’s one of a couple reasons Family First Hospice is a Bronze sponsor of the Relay for Life, which has shown some  benefits within the company as well.

 A nurse and team co-captain, Joann McClelland is Relaying to honor her late father, Joe John Galetka.

“He died of cancer years ago, and I’ve had other family members who have died from cancer,” she said. “I deal with Rice resident Jessica Brewer is director of nursing for Family First.  

“The main reason I do this is for our patients. My family's been affected by cancer also — it’s a tough thing,” she said.  

She did the walk last year with her two sons, and she has seen their awareness grow as she has involved them in her quest.

“My oldest son understands people have died from this disease, and people have survived this disease,” she said.

Hospice volunteer coordinator Margie Norum is a dedicated Relay-er. Her son Christopher died last year of a rare type of sarcoma he had battled since age 19. Now his two daughters join her for the Relay.

“He’s been a fighter all his life,” she said. “That’s why I Relay.”

E-mail J. Louise Larson at

Separate story with picture, related

By J. Louise Larson

Debbie Montgomery is hooked on helping others with her hobby.

She's the creator of a splendid Relay For Life afghan being raffled by Victory Racers, the team sponsored by Family First Hospice.

The dazzling red, white and blue blanket was created in honor of the late Christopher Norum. He died last year at 33, leaving behind his family, including two precious daughters, and his mother, hospice volunteer coordinator Margie Norum of Palmer.

"Margie and I are good friends and we've been through a lot with our kids. She wanted to do something in memory of Christopher, and I said I'd be tickled to do that," Montgomery said.

"Relay For Life is a great cause — cancer's one of our number one killers. Anything I can do to help find a cure, we need to," she said, recalling the loss of her own father to pancreatic cancer in 1982. "At one point or another, everyone has been touched by cancer in some way."

Using yarn to make a point's nothing new to Debbie Montgomery, who won first place in three divisions at the Texas State Fair with her red, white and blue "America Stand Proud" aghan depicting flags criss-crossed behind an eagle.

A member of the Crochet Guild of America, she often visits and swaps .. well, yarns … with other members online.

She's hoping other handcrafters will follow her example and take to crochet.

"I want to encourage others to get into it because crochet's a dying art — not too many people crochet anymore. They're always telling us to teach somebody else," she said.

Montgomery is a hair stylist by day — but the rest of the time, she crochets.

It's an avocation she started early.

"When I was a little girl, my grandmother and a neighbor lady used to sit under a tree in a swing and crochet — and as fast as they talked, they crocheted," she recalled.

Around age 5, she asked her grandmother to teach her to crochet. "She gave me some yarn and a hook and showed me the basic stitches, and told me to start doing things," she said. by the time her grandmother died just a few years later, little Debbie was well-hooked on crochet.

"I picked up more as I went along from books and magazines," she recalled.

Montgomery, who live in Red Oak with husband Gary,  comes from a talented family — her mother quilts and embroiders, and also passed her handwork skills along to her daughter, who does cross-stitch work to enhance the designs on her afghans.

"My grandmother's favorite saying was, 'Idle hands are the devil's workshop,'" she recalled.

So are busy hands the workshop of the angels?

"Evidently," she said with a smile.  "I feel like I'm very blessed. The Lord's given me a talent and I try to give back."

Accordingly, if you see Debbie Montgomery, there's a crochet hook around close by, guaranteed.

"It's my way of staying sane," she said with a chuckle. "It's my relaxation. I call it my passion — I'm never sitting down that I don't have something in my hand and I'm working on it," she said. "My husband said the only time he sees my hands not busy is when I'm sleeping. And even then, I'm still trying to crochet," she said of a rumored propensity for crocheting in her sleep. "Evidently."

E-mail J. Louise Larson at