After having to cancel last year’s Relay for Life, organizers with the American Cancer Society are tentatively planning to hold it this year on June 11.
Those plans, according to the Cancer Society’s senior development manager Brenda Robinson, are going to depend on where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is with its recommendations due to COVID-19. And it will also depend on what the county’s recommendations are on crowd numbers.
The last Relay for Life for Wayne County was held in 2019.
This year’s event is planned at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fairgrounds from 6 to 10 p.m.
Although it’s traditionally held in May each year, in 2020 the Cancer Society planned for a Relay to be held in October at the fairgrounds, with all the traditional activities and vendors, as well as some new additions.
But in September, the traditional Relay was canceled, and a drive-thru trunk or treat was planned in its place at the fairgrounds.
That event was held Oct. 20 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Robinson said. There was also a Halloween costume contest for children.
“This (was) an event that (was) for the kids in the community to enjoy some sort of normalcy for Halloween and to honor our luminarias, which is a very big part of our traditional Relay for Life event,” Robinson said.
“It was a really good event. We had a lot of kids come out, and we gave out candy and decorated our cars. We honored the luminarias that had been purchased.”
Relay for Life has been a staple in Wayne County for more than 30 years, beginning in 1990 at the Goldsboro Family YMCA as a 24-hour walk/run/swim event before switching to Relay for Life in 1994, Robinson said.
It grew so much over the years that it had to be relocated from the YMCA to Eastern Wayne High School and Wayne Community College before settling in at the fairgrounds.
Last year was the first time in 30 years that the Relay had to be canceled, Robinson said.
Because the 2021 event is still in the planning stages, Robinson can’t say for sure what activities and vendors will be at this year’s Relay.
In its peak year in 2008, the Relay raised $729,000, she said.
“The money that’s raised supports a lot,” Robinson said.
One of those is a national call information center at 800-227-2345 that has nurses on call around the clock.
“A cancer patient can call there and get any kind of information they need, insurance, clinical trials, any kind of cancer information,” Robinson said. “This is something we’ve added since COVID. If they are a cancer patient sitting at home and can’t get out to see other people, we have a live video chat that they can call in and talk to someone and see who they’re talking to.”
Money raised also supports the Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program, which provides free rides to treatments for cancer patients. It had to be shut down last year due to COVID, but will start back up the first of July, Robinson said.
The Cancer Society’s Hope Lodges will also open back up soon. The closest one to Wayne County is in Greenville, and allows those receiving cancer treatments in Greenville to stay for free. The only thing they provide is their own meals.
“We have 28 research grants in North Carolina right now totaling more than $10 million,” Robinson said. “The University of North Carolina and Duke get the biggest chunks.”
Money from the Relay also goes the grants.
“We are also working on our human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign,” she said. “That is what’s going to eliminate six types of cancer in the future.”
Relay funds support the vaccination campaign, too.
“We are focusing on research, education, advocacy and our services,” Robinson said. “One of the things we’re most focused on this year is health equity, making sure that everyone has equal opportunity to treatment.
“We are working to save lives, celebrate lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer.”
The American Cancer Society also has a sister organization, the ACS Cancer Action Network, which lobbies for rights for cancer patients.
Health screenings are a big push with the Cancer Society this year, Robinson said.
“Because of COVID, many cancer screenings did not take place,” she said. “We are pushing people to get back out there and get their screenings done. If not, if they do have cancer, their cancers are going to accelerate because they’re not getting out and getting screened.”
The Cancer Society’s website at cancer.org contains any information someone may want to know about cancer, and the cancer hotline is 1-800-227-2345.
“We (American Cancer Society) do so many things in our community,” Robinson said. “People just have no idea.”