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The force is with ham
Shearouse takes first runner up in ADAs Kiss-A-Pig
0510 Rand Kiss a pig prize 2
Shearouse celebrates his teams finish as first runner-up. - photo by Photo by Calli Arnold

The American Diabetes Association’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Kiss-a-Pig campaign, wrapped up at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Savannah on Saturday evening with the region exceeding expectations and bringing in $260,000.

A contest between community leaders to raise money, Kiss-a-Pig is a regional campaign with competitors from throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry of South Carolina. The team that raises the most money by Saturday evening kisses a live pig, honored by ADA as the original source of insulin.

The 2011 theme, Swine Wars, is a spoof of the ever-popular “Star Wars” franchise and provides an excellent platform for drawing attention to a serious and common disease.

First-time participant Randy Shearouse, Effingham County School Superintendent, represented “The HAMS of Effingham County” by traveling throughout the county dressed as Luke Skywalker for the nine-week duration of the fundraiser. His campaign claimed a first runner up prize in the “Jedi Warriors” or newcomers category, raising $19,554.

“I really didn’t (expect it),” Shearouse said. “I knew we would do well just because we’re a caring community, but I had no idea we could raise over $19,000. We have so many great things and opportunities for people to give to. We just had Relay For Life and a lot of the schools were involved in that. I didn’t want to compete with any other activity going on. So we just put kind of a low-profile campaign together, but still it ended up being very successful, and I’m just very happy about the support we did receive.”

Effingham schools were the major contributors for the local campaign. Students participated in voluntary dress-down days and teachers at Marlow Elementary who donated were able to wear flip-flops to school. Marsha Lott at Ebenezer Middle sold suckers made to look like pigs for the fundraising effort, and Cheryl Christain dressed as a Star Wars character selected through student donations.

“I think it reaffirms the caring community that we have. Of course, many citizens gave donations to American Diabetes Association, and our students always come through and give to worthwhile causes,” Shearouse said. “With the number of kids now who have diabetic problems, that really helps other students know that we need to work hard to find a cure, and they were willing to help out with that. We really can’t say enough about our students and our community — they’re always willing to give and help out in a time of need.”

Effingham was beaten out by the newest block of participants from Statesboro, whose members included Georgia Southern University football coach Jeff Monken. Statesboro’s team raised $33,619, and Bubba Hunt of Car City and Coach Monken were the lucky individuals who kissed Reba the pig, during which Hunt donned a wedding dress in honor of their sponsor, J’adore Bridal and Sugarland Candy. The crowd was at its feet in applause for the winners.

Second runner up in the “Jedi Warriors” category was “The Heavenly Hogs,” a team from the Heavenly spa of the Westin Savannah Resort, led by Cindi Moreno, raising $12,193.

The Big Pig category, a friendly rivalry between the Liberty County team and Savannah-Chatham County Schools, was taken by Liberty, represented by Joel Osteen with Osteen and Osteen and managed by Danny Creasy, a former Kiss-a-Pig candidate. They raised $82,676 with their signature events the Wild Taste of Dorchester and the 8th Annual Friends for Diabetes Fun Shoot, both held at Dorchester Shooting Preserve.

The ADA regional 2011 goal was to $235,000, and the campaign brought in $260,005.83.

Funds raised during the Kiss-a-Pig campaign benefit American Diabetes Association, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to curing diabetes and improving the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Diabetes is the nation’s seventh deadliest disease, killing more than 220,000 Americans each year.  It is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, adult blindness, kidney failure and non-traumatic amputations.

Many people living with this life-altering disease do not know it, partially because they may not experience any symptoms during the early stages. More than 24 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and researchers believe over six million more may have diabetes and not realize it.

And as for Shearouse’s Skywalker duds?

“I’m gonna save it just in case. Maybe next Halloween I can bring it out, might be able to recycle it,” he said.