Bertie Relay totals nearly #036;163,000

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2005

WINDSOR – Despite being down three teams from last year, event organizers for this past weekend’s Bertie County Relay For Life announced a total of $162,663.45 in money raised during the two-day event, just $27,336.55 shy of their original $190,000 goal.

Coming together for the 12th year in a row to raise awareness about cancer as well as money for education and research, hundreds of area supporters descended on the field at Bertie High School in an all-night celebration of life.

Starting with only 10 teams, the event has grown five times over in participation, providing a forum that allows a community to grieve those who have lost the battle, celebrate the lives of those who have survived and promote a network of support amongst those newly diagnosed with the disease.

With approximately 1.73 million cases documented nationally last year, Relay offers everyone in a community a chance to participate in combating the disease.

The overnight event, which lasted just short of 24 hours, began at 2 p.m. Friday and kicked off with some local talent offering encouragement through inspirational and contemplative vocals and interpretive dance.

Entertainment included performances by Southwestern Middle School Choir Trinity Gospel Ensemble, Bertie High SWAT Club, Jason Johnson, Darlene Johnson, Norman Britt, Stacey and Nichole Britt, the Remembrance Band, Indian Woods Spirit Dancers, Richard Simmons, Bertie High School ROTC Color Guard with the National Anthem sung by Tiffany Newsome and performances by and a host of free-spirited karaoke singers who rocked the night away from midnight to five in the morning.

&uot;We had a blast,&uot; said JoAnn Jordan, one of the Relay coordinators.

Bringing the survivor message, Linda Speller referred to her experience with cancer as that of a blessing.

&uot;Think about it,&uot; she said as she addressed the crowd of people assembled in front of the makeshift stage. &uot;Don’t you thank God you’re alive? Aren’t your relationships better and your faith stronger?&uot;

She continued, &uot;I challenge you to think of the good things that have come to pass as a result of your diagnosis. Aren’t you blessed when you reflect on all you have been through?&uot;

Speller, who testified to the difficulty of seven months of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation, said she was thankful for the trial because it made her stronger.

&uot;I count it a blessing; I wouldn’t be where I am mentally or spiritually if I hadn’t have gone through this,&uot; she said, noting seven as God’s number of completion. &uot;I have a 12 inch scar from my experience that acts as a reminder for me to say thank you to God for healing me.&uot;

Speller also shared how cancer survivors could be an encouragement to those walking through the valley because they had been there.

&uot;Perhaps when people look into our eyes, they will see our hope; when they shake our hands, they will feel our strength; when we talk they will hear our faith and when they see our smiles, they will see we are blessed,&uot; she said. &uot;As survivors, you are a living testimony, so share it, live it and remember though you may not be physically whole, you are spiritually blessed.&uot;

As she stepped away from the podium, the angelic vocals of Celine Dion singing her Olympic themed hit, &uot;The Power of the Dream,&uot; could be heard resonating through the outdoor sound system as the names of over a hundred cancer survivors were read aloud.

&uot;You are the reason we Relay,&uot; said Jordan. &uot;Every year you raise over $150,000 for the American Cancer Society and sometimes wonder where it all goes. But go to the mirror and look, you’re still here and we love you.&uot;

As night fell, participants enjoyed a moving candlelight ceremony as event staff and volunteers lit luminaries purchased in memory of friends and family members who had lost the battle against the disease or in honor of those who continue to wage that war.

&uot;We knew we lost three major teams that participated last year,&uot; said Relay co-coordinator Bobbie Parker, noting that last year the teams collectively generated approximately $30,000 in funds.

&uot;We have not met our goal, but we have done considerably well and I commend all who assisted in this event for their efforts,&uot; she said.

The group will continue raising funds until mid August to reach the goal.

Recognition was given to the following groups in various categories with Willie G. Bazemore winning the Pack the Track Award for having engaged the most survivors and the Bertie Board of Education recognized for the Beth Cayton Light up the Night Award for the most luminaries purchased.

Aulander Elementary was named the winner of the Chain of Hope, while Ross Baptist Church was recognized for its theme of &uot;Caution: Cure Under Construction&uot; placing first in best t-shirt decoration followed by

J.P. Law Elementary in second and Bertie High School Beta Club in third.

Colerain Elementary took first place in Best Tent Decoration with a Mexican theme, followed by Center Grove Baptist Church with a greenhouse theme and the Bertie Health Department with the construction site team.

The Team Spirit Award, which is traditionally awarded to a team, was given this year to a group of karaoke singers who named themselves the &uot;Relay Outlaws&uot; for keeping the positive momentum going throughout the night.

The award for most money raised by an individual went to JoAnn Jordan ($8,200) while the Bertie Board of Education took home the award for the team who raised the most ($24,372.52).

Recognition was also given to Ross Baptist Church for raising $12,325.72 and Bertie Memorial Hospital who respectively took second and third place with their amounts.

Overall, the group fell short only $11,500 of its goal as Parker said an additional $16,000 in corporate commitments have yet to be figured into the total.

Co-chair Glenwood Mitchell, who lost a distant cousin to prostate cancer earlier in the week, encouraged participants not to neglect their regular doctor’s visits.

&uot;Everyone who has ever heard the words, ‘you have cancer,’ never believed it could happen to them,&uot; he said, &uot;but those who are here see it very clearly that it can happen to anyone.&uot;

A special thanks was extended to all participants and contributors.

&uot;Every dime we raise is a strike against cancer,&uot; said Jordan.

Bertie’s Relay has been in the top 10 national events each year and has been number one in the nation for money raised per capita for the past four years, topping the $1 million mark in 2003 for money raised for the ACS.

If someone you know is struggling with cancer, visit: for more information or contact your local chapter of ACS.