WEST JEFFERSON-Relay for Life, the signature fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society that brings communities together to raise awareness and funds for research, takes place this Friday, July 15, at Ashe County High School.
The annual event has been held locally since 1995, and for more than a century, the American Cancer Society has been leading the way in transforming cancer from deadly to preventable.
Opening ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m., including special remarks by cancer survivor and local teacher Trey Simmons, presentation of colors by the Ashe County Honor Guard and the National Anthem will be sung by Hannah Osborne, followed by the ceremonial survivor lap at 6:30 p.m.
With a fund-raising goal of $61,500 this year, local volunteers report that this year’s event has already raised more than $28,000.
The history of Relay for Life dates to May 1985, when Dr. Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, ultimately raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the nation’s biggest health concern – cancer.
A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event. Since those first steps, the Relay For Life movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer.
The community-wide event is anchored by the involvement of local teams representing churches, businesses and community-based organizations.
According to local Relay Chair Tammy Mash, this year’s Relay features 76 business, church and corporate sponsors, more than 80 survivors, over 200 participants and a total of 17 local teams.
“Ashe County has always been very supportive of our Relay events, and it’s inspiring to see the community come together to celebrate our survivors and to reflect on the lives of those we have lost to cancer,” she said.
Special thanks also go to the Town of West Jefferson and the West Jefferson Business Association for their support of Relay’s theme this year, “Paint Your World Purple,” by having a “Paint the Town Purple” promotion the week leading up to the Relay for Life event.
Local businesses have been encouraged to use purple in their storefront displays and post purple bows at their businesses in support of Relay for Life.
Several activities are scheduled at the event, including music throughout the evening by longstanding volunteer and deejay Glen Sullivan, special music by Hannah Osborne, bounce houses and onsite fund-raising activities. Concessions will be available, including hot dogs, home-baked goods, pinto beans, bratwurst, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, drinks and more.
One of the most meaningful aspects of the event beyond the survivor lap is the luminaria service, which features lighted luminaries and torches that are placed around the track that honors or remembers those who have been touched by cancer. Luminaries may be purchased at the event for $5 each until 8:30 p.m. at the Relay event, and the luminary service will begin around 9:30 p.m.
ACS South Atlantic Division Community Manager and Watauga resident Carrie Phillips has been working with local volunteers for several months to plan this year’s event.
“Each year over four million people take to the track because of someone they know that has had cancer. They do this because they want no more of this horrible disease,” she said “This charge…‘Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.’ sums up the event. Celebrate the victories of our survivors. Remember those who lost the battle. Fight Back by fundraising, educating and supporting research to stop Cancer. Relay For Life is an emotional event where you will laugh, cry, play and learn all in one night!”
Earlier this summer, the ACS and local volunteers hosted a special dinner event to honor local cancer survivors, which was well attended and featured guest speaker and Ashe Memorial Hospital oncologist, Dr. Michael Tate.
The Relay For Life Committee of Ashe County is always looking for individuals that are interested in helping to eradicate cancer through education to the community, fundraising and planning events. Any person with an interest or idea is encouraged to talk with a committee member at the event or contact Carrie Phillips at [email protected] or 828-963-3935.
For more information about the Ashe Relay event, contact Tammy Mash at 977-2663.