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SHALLOTTE—They came. They walked. They helped raise a record amount of money for cancer.
When Brunswick County’s two-day, overnight 13th Annual Relay for Life concluded last Saturday afternoon at West Brunswick High School, a record amount of money had been raised for the American Cancer Society—$364,000.
Relay chairman Renee Adams said organizers are still counting as money continues to roll in.
“People are still calling in wanting to turn in money,” Adams said Monday afternoon. “We don’t know where it’s going to stop.”
Adams said she was amazed and appreciative with the generosity of people in these economically challenging times.
“We set a goal of $350,000 and surpassed that goal like you wouldn’t believe,” she said.
In addition, an estimated crowd of more than 2,500 turned out for the fundraiser.
“We had 1,200 last year,” event publicity chair Chellie McDowell said.
For the first time this year, she said, it was difficult to find a parking space when the 19-hour event began Friday evening, May 2.
“We never had issues with parking until now,” she said.
The event kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday with a survivors’ walk around the track at M.H. Rourk Stadium.
A steady stream of walkers, some runners and some on assorted wheels made laps around the track throughout the all-night event that continued until closing ceremonies at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Participants sported purple Relay T-shirts emblazoned with “remember,” “celebrate” and “fight back.”
At tables under awnings, Relay participants could take part in assorted games and sales to help raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“Score for a Cure!” read one sign at the Mount Olive Baptist Church table. Novant Medical Group had a “carnival for cure” table.
Round-the-clock entertainment, including an America’s Got Talent contest that started at 8 p.m. and recording artist MIKE-E, permeated the stage in the center of the stadium on the football field.
There also were food booths selling everything from barbecue and hot dogs to Italian ice and cotton candy.
Mary Zeigler and Dave Lurix were among a host of volunteers bustling to place candles in luminary bags surrounding the track and then light them at 9 p.m.
Each of the bags, arranged in alphabetical order, bore a name to remember or honor someone who has had cancer—Brunswick County residents, friends and loved ones of survivors who sought out familiar names as they strolled the track.
“All these are uncles and a brother and a daddy,” Linda Rabon Reynolds said, viewing luminary bags with her husband, Charles, who was taking pictures.
JoAnn and John Barton of Sea Trail Plantation in Sunset Beach said they’d spotted luminaries honoring three people they know.
“When they light them, that’s going to be the thing,” JoAnn said.
As nightfall descended, more than 3,050 luminaries placed around the track were lit, this year in memory of former local Relay luminary chair Paulette Dodson, who lost her own battle with cancer in March. Her husband, Barry, agreed to carry on his wife’s job overseeing the luminaries, Adams said.
The initial goal this year was 3,000 luminaries, which increased to 3,050.
It was an all-night gathering and celebration to raise funds and awareness, but the fundraiser also was about community and bringing people together.
“It’s times like this you can appreciate being in a small town,” said Brunswick County Attorney Huey Marshall, who attended the event with his son, Schuyler.
Hours later, closing ceremonies unfolded Saturday with remaining participants carrying small flags around the track in tribute to those in Brunswick County who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
“We have been up all night, and I’m still seeing smiles,” Adams said. “Great day, that’s good.”
Relay awards announced prior to the final walk were: rookie of the year, Brunswick Early College; service award, Brunswick Electric; tent judging, Dee’s By The Sea; spirit award, Team St. James; team congeniality award, Mount Olive Baptist Church.
Speaking to those who had stayed for the duration, MIKE-E said it was an honor for him to bring his musicians “and align ourselves with something positive in a world that is so over-laden with negativity. I’ve been fed by you all literally and spiritually. You guys are the heart of this whole thing.”
He urged them not to give up the fight, so as “not to let our loved ones die in vain.”
Two days, he added, are not enough to beat cancer.
“We’ve got to do more year-round.”