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It’s a festive yet bittersweet time as organizers prepare for the 20th annual Relay for Life to benefit cancer research this Friday and Saturday at West Brunswick High School.
As of press deadline Tuesday evening, 68 teams and 725 participants had already raised $105,884.92 for the American Cancer Society, according to the latest tally on the Relay for Life of Brunswick County website.
This year’s overnight relay launches at 6 p.m. Friday, May 3, with an opening ceremony, followed by a survivors’ lap at 6:30 p.m. around the WBHS track. A kids’ walk is at 7:30 p.m., followed by survivor speaker Tony Caison at 8:45 p.m. and a luminary lighting ceremony at 9 p.m. honoring people battling cancer and remembering those whose lives were lost to cancer.
Gloria’s Pink Celebration Parade follows at 9:30 p.m., said Norma Jean Powell, captain of the Flocking for a Cure team.
The lap is in memory of Gloria Childress, a WBHS guidance counselor and longtime supporter of Relay for Life who died April 7 at the age of 54 after a nine-and-a-half-year battle with cancer.
“She cried and cried because she wasn’t going to be here,” said Relay volunteer Sylvia Ludlum, choking up as she relayed details about the tribute in Childress’ memory.
“She was one of the best friends in the whole world,” said Ludlum, adding Childress’ daughter and family are taking part in Friday night’s parade.
Powell said Childress wanted to be remembered with a celebration and “everything pink.” The lap committee will provide pink glow sticks and balloons and encourages participants to “bring anything else pink that you can think of.”
In addition to fundraising and remembering those who have fought cancer, Relay for Life celebrates survivorship and strives to empower people to “fight back against the disease.”
Throughout the night, teams will walk or run laps around the track to raise money for education, prevention, research, advocacy and for patient and family services.
This year’s Relay for Life will conclude with a closing ceremony at 7 a.m., followed by a balloon release at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
“We have lots of activities planned,” said Erin Bright of the American Cancer Society, citing “different laps every hour of the night.”
Teams will have tents set up around the track as they raise funds.
Longtime Relay for Life participant and organizer Dee Carlisle said they would like to see more participation from doctors at this year’s event.
As of Monday, she said none had signed on as a corporate sponsor.
“My thing is, people are going to these doctors,” Carlisle said. “Do they not value patients enough to support Relay for Life?”
She encouraged anyone interested to call her at her Holden Beach office, Dee’s By The Sea Rentals, (910) 842-2822.
Do organizers otherwise expect a record turnout at this year’s event?
Relay for Life volunteer Bonita Hughes hopes so.
“We want to pack the track,” she said.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email email@example.com.