A crowd of supporters gather at the stage during the Relay for Life event held at South Central High School on April 26, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)
“. . .the reason I was out here is if these cancer survivors battle cancer for so many years, I can give nine hours of my time to give back to them. ”
By Jane Dail
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Tents packed with people circled the track at South Central High School as participants walked laps, danced and did what they could to raise money and awareness to help cancer survivors and research.
More than 2,000 people attended the 28th annual Relay for Life of Pitt County fundraising walk on Friday and Saturday in an effort to stamp out cancer and help those suffering from the disease. All the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society, with part of the funds benefiting the McConnell-Raab Hope Lodge.
Ashely Lamprecht, community manager for the event, said this year’s fundraising efforts, which started on Sept. 1, have raised about $250,000 so far.
Lamprecht said there were 99 teams at this year’s Relay for Life and 1,047 registered participants. She said about 400 cancer survivors came to walk and show their support.
Event Chairwoman Carolina Smithwick said this year’s Relay for Life was the biggest ever. Smithwick said she and many others had been awake from 7 a.m. Friday until the end of the event noon on Saturday, fueled by caffeine and a passion for Relay for Life’s mission.
“It’s absolutely worth it,” Smithwick said. “We’re out here and we unify. … Cancer doesn’t sleep, and neither do we. We hate the disease. It’s such a great feeling, when I look and I see these people out here, it just makes everything worth it.”
Entertainment chairwoman Crystal Octigan said the event was a definite success, after hearing good feedback from participants and committee members.
“We think this has definitely been the best Relay for Life of Pitt County in a while,” Octigan said. “It definitely exceeded last year. They’re taking baby steps every year.”
To help keep the energy going throughout the night, the event hosted everything from Zumba classes to J.H. Rose High School’s marching band, as well as local bands, DJs, East Carolina University’s Drum Line and some musical performances from a cancer survivor and a family member of a someone taken by cancer.
Octigan said the different times of the day throughout the event were representative of a cancer survivor’s journey, starting with the diagnosis at daylight.
Then at twilight, it reflects the mental and physical components of battling cancer. The night time represents the challenges posed by radiation and chemotherapy, but then the morning light represents remission.
“It symbolizes that cancer never sleeps,” Octigan said. “That’s why we’re here 24 hours.”
Joseph Main, a Pitt Community College student, said this year was his first year volunteering at Relay for Life. He initially signed up for a few hours on Friday, but ended staying throughout the entire event.
“After being here, it was amazing,” Main said. “I kept telling people the reason I was out here is if these cancer survivors battle cancer for so many years, I can give nine hours of my time to give back to them.
“I’m definitely going to come back next year.”
Smithwick said her family has been affected by cancer, a reason why the event is so important to her.
“My dad is actually a cancer survivor of 11 years,” she said. “They gave him a prognosis that he would never see me graduate elementary school. We witnessed a miracle. And I lost my grandfather back in June to pancreatic cancer, so it’s close to my heart.”
Though the event was a success, Relay for Life’s fundraising efforts are not over, according to Octigan. Last year Relay for Life in Pitt County raised more than $370,000, and people have time to continue giving throughout August by visiting relayforlife.org and searching “Pitt County.”
“(The relay) ends up being in April, but our season doesn’t end in April,” she said.
Smithwick said the camaraderie she sees at Relay for Life helps propel the success of the event.
“We come together, we don’t know each other and we feel like a family,” she said. “… The whole point of this event is no one goes through this battle alone. Whether you’re a survivor, whether you’re a caregiver, whether you’re currently fighting, nobody does it by themselves.”
Contact Jane Dail at email@example.com or 252-329-9585.
via The Daily Reflector.