Monday, 06 May 2019 11:51

Richmond County Relay for Life draws survivors, others affected by cancer

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The 18th annual Richmond County Relay for Life brought cancer survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives to the disease to Cole Auditorium on Friday. See more photos on the Richmond Observer's Facebook page. The 18th annual Richmond County Relay for Life brought cancer survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives to the disease to Cole Auditorium on Friday. See more photos on the Richmond Observer's Facebook page. Betty McIntyre - Richmond Observer

HAMLET — Creative themes filled the parking lot of the Cole Auditorium on Friday as individuals, businesses and groups came together in Richmond County for Relay for Life’s 18th annual fundraiser.

Although each theme may have differed, there was one thing they all had in common: to help in the battle against cancer. 

Relay for Life is the world’s largest fundraising event for cancer which first began in the United States. In May 1985, colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt decided to help his local cancer charity, so he began circulating tracts in Tacoma, Washington, to help raise awareness of the disease. This began to spread throughout the United States and then throughout the world. This year marks the 34th year in which the event unites and empowers communities to help in the fight against cancer. 

The inspirational event brings people together who have battled cancer, are still battling cancer, and to remember loved ones who lost the battle. 

Opening ceremony began at 6 p.m. in honoring all who have been affected by cancer. The survivor/caregiver walk began at 6:30 p.m. as each person stepped out onto the track to walk the lap of life. Luminaries bordered the event in remembrance of loved ones and friends who were either still battling the disease, who lost the battle, or who battled and survived. The luminary ceremony began at 9 p.m. and the closing ceremony was held at midnight. 

Cameron Whitley, community manager with the American Cancer Society mentioned the new addition to the event this year, “Touch of Truck,” for the children. There were numerous trucks — including fire trucks, a lift truck, a garbage truck, an ambulance and a bulldozer  — for the children to explore. 

Although it rained before the event began, it quickly diminished. The opening ceremony began rain-free with Chad Gross welcoming everyone followed by the singing of the national anthem.

The stage was then turned over to Relay For Life event leaders Chris and Stephanie Thornton. They shared their own personal story of their battle with cancer, and gave God the thanks for overcoming. They also thanked everyone who helped make the night possible. The Thorntons have been participating in the event for 10 years, with this being their second year leading.

The survivors were then called to walk their lap. The crowd cheered loudly as each one gracefully walked the “Lap of Life.” 

The caregivers were next to walk, then the teams lined up afterwards with Cascades leading the way as 2018 Relay For Life’s team of the year. 

Next was the "Kids Lap," a second-year event, with Smokey the Bear taking the lead. Richmond Senior Choir sang at 7:30 p.m., then all lights went out for the luminary ceremony. One could sense the solemness of the moment as silence filled the event. 

Each individual taking a lap had their own unique story, one in which sisters Georgia Chavis and Beth Brown shared.

“We both battled cancer at the same time five years ago” said Chavis. 

“The first time I had cancer was 10 years ago, then I went into remission. It came back five years ago when my sister Georgia was diagnosed” Brown added.

The two sisters proudly walk the survivor lap together each year. 

Lawana Bowler was with a group from the Rockingham Church of God of Prophecy. She shared her story as a 16-year survivor. 

“I have attended Relay For Life since it began in Richmond County; I am so blessed” she said. She walked the “Lap of Life” with her twin grandbabies. 

One of the booths set up was from Murphy’s Chiropractic, with the theme “Wish Upon A Birthday.” Team Captain Amy High, Crystal Fugle, Jessica Alvarado and Dee Anna Ward were set up with all kinds of birthday snacks and goodies. There was also a chance to win a loaded gift basket which included an hour-long massage. This was their fourth year participating in the event. 

Folks waited in line for as long as 25 minutes to get an ear of roasted corn from the Cascades booth. This was the company’s 14th year participating.

“We enjoy doing it, we enjoy all the people, and we have a lot of fun” said Sherri Alfeo. 

Tissue maker von Drehle was also set up as their tropical theme drew the crowd. The anticipated “Spin and Win” wheel was rolling once again as the folks lined up to win. The “Kids Toss” game was new and seemed to attract many children as they anxiously tossed a roll of toilet tissue until it landed in the toilet. This was von Drehle’s fifth year participating in the event.