Villarreal leads by example with Relay for Life


Sunflower team captain hopes to get more involved in fundraising.

Sunflower team captain hopes to get more involved in fundraising.


If you don't have money, you can always donate time.

That's the way Erica Villarreal, a Relay for Life volunteer, sees it.

Villarreal is the team captain for the Sunflower Power Electric Corp. Relay for Life team, and is the team development chair for Finney County Relay for Life. She also works with Sunflower employees to encourage them to become involved in United way.

Villarreal, the supply chain administrative assistant for Sunflower, is hoping to get others involved in Relay for Life as more teams are needed to meet the county's goal of raising $100,000 toward the fight against cancer. So far, the organization raised about $20,000.

The annual Relay for Life overnight relay event is scheduled for Aug. 9 at Memorial Stadium.

Villarreal became involved in Relay for Life when Sunflower wanted to start a team.

"I volunteered to be a captain. This is the first year I've been the team development chair. It's just a group I wanted to be a part of," she said.

Villarreal believes in the mission of Relay for Life.

"I joined Relay because I think it's a great organization. It helps save people's lives. On a personal level, I've had friends, family and co-workers that have been devastated by this disease. And I'm naturally a helper, so anything I can do to help anyone in the smallest way, that's important to me," she said.

Villarreal said the American Cancer Society has provided 175 services to 107 cancer patients within the last year in Finney County. The American Cancer Society funds cancer research, has a 24-hour hotline and works with lawmakers to help pass laws to help defeat cancer, she said.

The American Cancer Society also has a loan closet in Illusions Salon, 414 N. Main St., where patients can get wigs.

Villarreal said it takes time and organization to be a volunteer, but it's worth it.

"It does take time, effort and planning to be involved. But when you see how much the American Cancer Society is helping in Finney County, it's all worth it," she said.

Villarreal stresses that every little bit helps Relay for Life, whether it's time or money.

"If you can't give financially, we're always looking for volunteers and manpower — that's another way you can give," she said.

Villarreal said teams range from just a few friends to company-wide teams.

"You can give back by leading your own fundraisers and raising that way, by forming a team," she said.

Villarreal's team has done bake sales, a burrito sale, and has worked with Mooyah's to get a percentage donated to Relay for Life. Every other Thursday, Mooyah's donates proceeds to Relay for Life. They also sell supportive and memorial luminaries and are selling a cookbook.

At the team captain meetings, she leads the meetings, tries to recruit more teams and answers questions about fundraising and the event.

"I also help keep the team captains motivated," she said.

Villareal said Relay for Life needs more teams.

"We have 16 right now, and we're trying to get more. Any group of people can join — family, friends, churches, co-workers — you only need a few people. There's no minimum or limit," she said.

Villarreal is proud of what Relay for Life has done so far in Finney County.

"Since we started in 1997, Finney County Relay for Life has raised over $1 million as of last year," she said.

In addition to her career and volunteering, Villarreal is also the mother of Zoe, 5, and Mia, 1. She's married to Johnny Villarreal.

In order to balance it all, she stays organized and communicates with her family.

"I'd say the best way to balance everything is to have a plan. Everyone in the family knows what is going on and when," she said.

She's also working on her master's of business administration through Friends University.

Villarreal counts on Johnny to help her out.

"My husband is really supportive. He stays home with the kids when I have meetings and fundraising. He actually comes with me to my events and supports me that way," she said.

Villarreal puts her family first.

"I would say family comes first, but we've all got a little time to give," she said.

For more information about Relay for Life in Finney County, visit and search events using locations or zip codes, or email Villarreal at

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