04/27/05 — Relay for Life's annual event starts May 13

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Relay for Life's annual event starts May 13

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on April 27, 2005 1:51 PM

Wayne County will be the scene of one big cancer research party May 13 and 14.

That's the weekend of the 16th annual Relay for Life event, sponsored by the Wayne County Unit of the American Cancer Society. Its purpose is to raise money for cancer research and local patient services.

This year's goal is $500,000, co-chairman Terry Butler said. As of today, $318,826 has been raised for 2005.

Last year's event raised $503,000; the goal was $425,000.

Something brand new to this year's Relay will be the location. The event will be held at Wayne Community College instead of Eastern Wayne High School. "We have simply outgrown the high school, which is a good thing," Mrs. Butler said. "We decided we would try the college and see how it goes this year."

"Although there is not a track there, Jeff Whitener, our logistics person, has come up with a parking lot area that will be comparable to a track," she said.

She stressed camping won't be so crowded this year because there is so much space available.

"I don't think parking is going to be an issue this year either," she added. "There are two ways to get into the college parking lots, off New Hope Road and Wayne Memorial Drive. Plus, there's just so much parking space available out there.

"We had fire marshals tell us last year that with that many people inside that football area at Eastern Wayne High School, if something was to ever happen it could be catastrophic. So we're hoping that nightmare has been taken care of by moving the Relay to Wayne Community College."

The 2004 Relay had a total of 90 teams. So far this year, there are 110. "It still tells us that year after year the Relay is growing," Mrs. Butler said.

And there were about 350 corporate sponsors last year. So far this year, there are 400.

This is how the Relay works.

Teams have to have somebody on the track at all times beginning May 13 at 4 p.m. through May 14 at noon. Mrs. Butler explained that they can walk or run and even skateboard and rollerblade after 11 p.m. opening night.

Families will walk together, she said, and it's a common sight to see people pushing baby strollers on the track.

"It's all about a community," Mrs. Butler said. "This is a time when you can really look and see how Wayne County comes together as a family. And I know it's because of so many people who are touched by cancer, either through a family member, a good friend, a co-worker."

The fund-raiser officially gets under way at 6 p.m. May 13 with an opening ceremony. Dr. James Atkins, local oncologist, will speak on advancements in cancer research and treatment. That's also when cancer survivors will do a lap around the track.

Mrs. Butler said the number of cancer survivors participating grows and grows each year. She estimates about 250 to 300 survivors took part in the survivors' lap last year.

Then there will be a luminaria service at 9 p.m. May 13. Olivia Whaley, honorary chairman, will speak at the service.

The event ends with a closing ceremony May 14 at noon.

Entertainment will begin at 4 p.m. May 13 and continue throughout the event.

Mrs. Butler said campsites will be judged opening day at 7 p.m. and awards will be given for first- through fourth-places. They will be judged on originality, theme and presentation.

"People really get into designing their campsites," she said. "New teams don't know really what it's about until they get out there. Then, next year, look out. They come up with some really awesome themes. And it all depicts finding a cure for cancer, which is what all this is about anyway."

Participants camp out overnight. They cook and sell all kinds of food. They also sell various Relay for Life and Cancer Society items, such as bracelets and pocketbooks. And all the proceeds go to the Relay.

A cancer information booth will be set up during the event with brochures and pamphlets on various topics related to cancer. Doctors will be on hand to answer questions.

Another new emphasis this year is the push for colorectal cancer screenings. Wayne County is one of 12 sites that will test the Cancer Society's colorectal cancer screening program during its Relay.

The purpose of the pilot program is to get 4,000 people ages 50 and older to sign pledge cards promising to have a colonoscopy performed. Team participants are collecting pledge cards now.

Wayne County's goal is 350 pledges.

"It's like a big fair," Mrs. Butler said. "During the Relay, the atmosphere is one of people just being festive and supportive of each other. They all know what they're there for."

Participants are not out to lament those who have the disease, Mrs. Butler said, but to celebrate those who have survived. That does not mean, however, that they forget those who have lost their battles.