Anonymous donor pays a surprise visit to Relay in Caribou, ME

2013 Relay For Life of Aroostook County, ME

It's always impossible to predict just how a Relay For Life event will go.

That was certainly true with the May 31-June 1, 2013, Relay in Aroostook County, Maine's northernmost county. Thunder and lightning rolled into the town of Caribou around 6 p.m., just as volunteers took to the stage to start the event. 

"It was a crazy few hours," said staff partner Mike Hart. "We had a thousand people standing there and we had to make the tough call to send them all into the gym at the Caribou High School. Good thing we did, as within five minutes the storm came in and within ten minutes had destroyed more than fifteen tents and tossed them around like paper. They were flying everywhere. They ended up as twisted metal and all over the track."

Relay participants took the change of plans in stride and the Survivors Lap went on as planned, but in the gym rather than on the track. By 9:30 p.m., people were back outdoors walking the track, and organizers were able to hold the Luminaria Ceremony by 10:30 p.m. Most teams stayed the night despite the on and off rain.

About 9 a.m., an hour before closing, something even more extraordinary happened. An elderly man came up to the registration table and asked where he could make a donation. He said his wife had passed away two years ago from cancer and he wanted to give a little to help out.

"We told him he could make the donation there. He pulled out some bills and set them down and thanked us for what we did," said Mike. "We thanked him for the donation and he walked away. My registration person turned around with tears running down her face and said he just gave us a thousand dollar donation - ten one hundred dollar bills. I took to feet and ran - okay I didn't run, my feet were killing me at this point - caught up with him, and thanked him again. I asked his name and he looked at me and said, 'The Bible says the right hand does not have to know what the left hand is doing.'

In the meantime, my survivor chair ran to her car to get the gift they had prepared for the caregivers who had lost their survivors. It was a glass ornament filled with feathers and signified the person had “earned wings.” She met up with us in the parking lot and gave one to him even though he said "I don't want to be treated special; I just wanted to make a difference.' The he smiled and said, 'I will see you next year' and walked away."

Mike said, "Hands down, this has to be one of the best things that has happened in my 18 years of staffing Relays. It brings it all back home."

The Relay has raised $147,500 so far this year, $2,000 over goal. Just four years ago it netted $45,000.

View local TV coverage of the event.