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Carmichael reunions: Family finds better way to meet

Melvin Carmichael, 66, said his family saw the need for an organized annual reunion after realizing the only time the relatives saw each other was at funerals.
“That’s the way we had to do it because we were getting together at funerals and that’s not a good place to meet,” said Carmichael, who lives in Ray County, site of the yearly gatherings. “We said we’re going to have to do something because we were losing family members as we went.”

Lily Carmichael, 7, made her grandfather proud by selling her toys at a garage sale and donating the $20 she made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  ‘She just broke my heart,’ said Melvin Carmichael, one of the cousins who helped organize the themed reunion. ‘She said, ‘Daddy, I sold my toys and have $20 and want to give it to cancer.’

Lily Carmichael, 7, made her grandfather proud by selling her toys at a garage sale and donating the $20 she made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. ‘She just broke my heart,’ said Melvin Carmichael, one of the cousins who helped organize the themed reunion. ‘She said, ‘Daddy, I sold my toys and have $20 and want to give it to cancer.’

Although the Carmichaels were rooted in Ray County, they’d spread out over time. But when Carmichael and his cousins, Donna Hobbs and Mary Dotson, both from the Tulsa, Okla., area organized the first reunion in 1998, 120 people came.
“We have relatives from California to Connecticut, from Florida to Montana, Texas to Iowa,” Carmichael said.
Each year, the family gathers the last Sunday in July. In a typical year, from 50 to 65 family members attend. And each year, cousin Donna comes up with a theme the family can rally around.
“We’ve had the 50s, favorite sports, entertainment, favorite recipes, and other themes through the years,”  said Carmichael, who serves at emcee at the Veterans’ Building in Richmond.
This year, the sisters and their cousin came up with a more serious theme – cancer, which had touched the family in many ways. The goal was to raise around $1,000 to split among three worthy charities, the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer, The American Cancer Society and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“In recent yearsk, we have lost several family members to cancer,” Carmichael said. “We have also been blessed to have several members who have survived as cancer patients. I happen to be one of those cancer survivors.”
Sixty-one family members attended this year’s reunion July 28. Through a raffle, sales of cancer ribbons and contribution bags for each of the charities, the Carmichaels surpassed the $1,000 goal.
A highlight of this year’s reunion was when Collin Borchert, 9, raised his hand when Carmichael asked if anyone wished to speak. Borchert, an elementary school student in Excelsior Springs, lost his grandfather, John Creason, to cancer in June.
“He got up there and spoke for three or four minutes,” Carmichael recalled, “and said, ‘I don’t want to see another kid lose his grandmother or grandfather. When he got done, I lost it.”
The family has yet to decide what the 2014 reunion theme will be, but Carmichael said he has faith in his cousin to come up with something timely.
“I can’t wait to see what Cousin Donna has in store for next year,” he said. “It just makes me proud to say that I am a Carmichael.”
– David Knopf, Richmond News

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