Hundreds of people turned out yesterday for the 18th annual Relay for Life during which laughter and tears were shared by those struggling with cancer, those who have survived cancer and those who were there in memory of someone who lost their battle with cancer.
This year’s event was dedicated to the memory of the late Griggs Hampton, Relay ambassador. This was the first Relay for Life held since he passed away in December 2011. Hampton worked tirelessly to raise money for the charity both before and after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“He dressed up like Elvis, had a kissing booth and did it (raised money) the old-fashioned way, he walked on the street and asked people for money. If you knew Griggs, nobody ever said no to Griggs. We honor all of you that are here, because you all have a story to tell about how you’ve been affected by cancer, that is so important, but today, we dedicate our walk to the memory of Griggs Hampton,” said event Co-chair Roxanne Moore.
Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran read a proclamation declaring Sept. 15 as Relay for Life Day in the city of Mount Airy.
“I’ll try to get through this without crying. My brother was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009. He’s in remission now, but I still think about all those days spent on the oncology floor at Forsyth Hospital and all the folks we met along the way,” said Cochran.
She said in 2012, more than 5,000 Relays for Life were held nationwide, raising more than $400 million for cancer research, patient services and advocacy programs as well as public education and awareness projects. The American Cancer Society reports that more than 51,860 North Carolinians will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and more than 18,440 state citizens will die this year from cancer, she said.
“Relay for Life is an event designed to celebrate life — the lives of those battling cancer, those who have lost their battle with cancer and those who we hope will never have to encounter this disease,” said Cochran.
Boy Scout Troop 553 raised the American flag while the Haynes sisters sang the National Anthem. The Rev. James Pyatt with Central United Methodist Church gave the invocation.
Cancer survivor Kandis George sang a solo during the song, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” along with the Haynes sisters, Jodi and Angel Haynes and Suzanne Haynes Avara.
Co-chair Diane Johnson then read a letter from cancer survivor Dale Elizabeth Scott.
“Each year the encouragement from everyone gets stronger and hope gets brighter. See, I have fought my lung cancer and won so far for these 13 years and believe me, the Relay for Life is something I look forward to each year, not because of the meal or the shirt, but because of the fact that I know when those walks begin people there are in the same boat that I am in. I hate the word cancer but none of us know when it will hit someone we love. I have lost family members to cancer. It’s not easy.
“People have told me people with lung cancer have a life span of five to eight years. My answer is God is keeping me here for something. I am cancer free, and my oncologist says he is pretty sure it won’t come back in my lungs, but emphysema is doing a number on me. Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone and want to say that I hope and pray that when people see our purple shirts walking around the track that they will get hope especially if they are just in the beginning of cancer. It is a hard road to travel and all I can say is fight, fight, fight — don’t give up.”
Next, a sea of cancer survivors wearing purple shirts took to the track to walk around the football field at Mount Airy High School for the Survivor’s Lap.
Jennifer Black came to the event to celebrate both her parents who had cancer. Her mother, Louise Hiatt, lost her battle with cancer in June of 2011. Her father, the late Alfred Hiatt, did not die of cancer, but fought a battle against colon cancer. Her Aunt Jancie Hiatt, who has never had cancer, accompanied her at the event. Hiatt had three brothers, a sister-in-law and a sister who all had cancer. She is growing her hair out so that she can donate it to a child with cancer in North Carolina.
“I’m so fortunate,” said Hiatt.
This was the first time the Mount Airy Fire and Police departments teamed up to be a part of Relay for Life. Lt. Kelly Hiatt with the Mount Airy Police Department said they were there to support everyone battling cancer, but they were there especially for Officer Jim Armbrister who was diagnosed with cancer. They wore T-shirts that read, “Running Back Up for Officer Jim.”
He said there was someone there walking the track for their team every hour of the event from noon to 10 p.m.
During the day, there were Zumba and line-dancing classes. Holy Obsessions Choir accompanied by Nathan Webb and Jamie Dooley sang, along with Taylor Vaden, who sang Elvis and other artists’ songs. The group Twice Born also performed.
The Fire House Ministries Fire Steppers performed as well.
There was a silent lap during which Susan Carpenter played the bagpipes.
The night closed out with fireworks and the final lap.
Johnson said she felt a positive energy at Saturday’s event.
“I feel like Relay for Life has been re-energized. We’ve had great participation with 51 teams. We had a good turnout. It was well received,” said Johnson.
More money was raised at yesterday’s event. That will be added to the $92,000 that already has been raised. The goal is to raise more than $100,000.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.