The kick-off for Relay for Life of Surry County/Mount Airy was held at First Presbyterian Church Thursday. Event chairpersons, team captains, and new participants celebrated past successes, recognized cancer survivors, and invited participants to join teams and participate in September’s community fundraising walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Relay for Life is an event that gives participants a chance to honor cancer survivors and remember lost loved ones, as well as raise awareness of what individuals can do to stay cancer-free or fight the disease.
Relay for Life will be held this year on Sept. 7 at Mount Airy High School, beginning at noon. Events will include an opening ceremony, a survivor lap, a luminara ceremony, and a closing ceremony.
The theme of this year’s event is “Celebrating 100 years of the American Cancer Society.”
According to the American Cancer Society, about one in three women will develop cancer and one in two men will be diagnosed with the disease. Cancer is the number two cause of death in the United States and half of all cancer deaths could be prevented by avoiding tobacco products, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise, and by getting regular cancer screenings.
The local kick-off event was a chance for participants to meet with organizers and discover fundraising ideas, as well as purchase Relay for Life products to use in promoting the event.
There are multiple ways to get involved: be part of a Relay for Life team of 10 to 15 participants; volunteer to help with the event or assist with fundraising efforts; become a corporate/business sponsor; or make a donation to a team or directly to the local event through the website. Teams may be formed from a group of family members, friends, and/or co-workers, and are encouraged to raise at least $100 per person prior to the Relay for Life event.
Committee chairs Dianne Johnson, Roxanne Moore and Sally Adams spoke to those in attendance about the importance of Relay for Life and the impact of the fundraising, which goes directly to the American Cancer Society to fund research, education, advocacy, and recovery efforts, which reach about 2,200 people each day.
Adams said that “cancer touches more than just the person diagnosed; it has an impact on everyone around them” and commended Relay for Life for bringing together “millions of people to raise money to help cancer prevention, save lives, and diminish suffering from the disease.”
Lou Sawyers and Lynn Rigney are in charge of the church committee, and they hope more churches will participate in the event this year. “We have had more church support in the past, so with this new committee we will hopefully have more churches participate,” said Sawyers. This is the first year Relay for Life included a special church committee.
Rigney said they are now in the “early planning stages” of a candlelight church ceremony. Any churches who are interested in participating in the candlelight service or the Relay for Life walk should email Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rigney at email@example.com.
Melissa Whitfield is this year’s chair for the school committee. Whitfield is a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Gentry Middle School. She said she can assist schools with organizing teams and generating fundraising ideas.
New to Relay for Life this year is a partnership with Staples that includes a reward program for schools who raise at least $1,000. Whitfield said that once a school hits the $1,000 mark, it will receive “5 percent back in essential supplies from Staples.” After it reaches $2,000, the school will receive 5 percent back for every $500 raised.
Whitfield said Relay for Life was important to her because her grandfather passed away from cancer. She said the “energy that Relay brings” is inspiring and she enjoys participating. This is her second year of serving as the chair for the school committee.
For more information about school fundaising for Relay for Life or to sign up school teams, contact Whitfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The luminara committee chairs are Joy Richardson and Ann Collins. Luminara, purple bows and flower pinwheels may be purchased in honor of or in memory of a loved one, which will be displayed during the Relay for Life event in September. Contact Richardson at email@example.com for more information about the luminara or other dedications.
Betty Ridolfi and Pepper Mayes serve as survivor committee chairs. The survivor’s lap is only for cancer survivors, who may register through the Relay for Life website. Email Mayes at psmayes@yahoo for more information about the survivor participation.
Marty Adams will assist with publicity, sponsorships and corporate needs. Adams said a purple toilet will be placed in front of area businesses, and they must donate to Relay for Life in order to have it removed. An additional donation allows the business to select where the toilet will go next, and businesses may purchase insurance to avoid the toilet completely. There also will be multiple levels of business sponsorships.
Lisa Bottomly, the mission delivery director for this region of North Carolina, spoke to the group about a Cancer Prevention Study that will be launched in Surry County in October. Volunteers who have never had cancer, ages 30 to 65, are needed for the study, which will track individuals through 20 to 30 years of their life. The data collected from the study may help to one day provide a cure for cancer, said Bottomly.
The confidential Cancer Prevention Study will examine “lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors that may cause or prevent cancer.” More information about the prevention study will be released prior to October.
“You may be the person we use to find the cure, you never know,” said Bottomly.
Those who attended the kick-off event on Thursday night enjoyed food donated by Chick-fil-A and posed for pictures with the cow mascot.
A team captain meeting will be held on the first Thursday of each month at First Presbyterian Church, in the fellowship hall.
To sign up for or donate to Relay for Life, go to the event’s website at www.relayforlife.org/surrymtairy, call Dianne Johnson at 410-2581, or email Roxanne Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants who registered last year must register again for this year’s event.
Reach Jessica Johnson at email@example.com or 719-1933.