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New record for Relay

MURFREESBORO – Wanda Lassiter had everything going in her favor on Saturday.

On that beautiful spring day, Lassiter became a great-grandmother for the very first time. Adding to her good fortune was the fact that Don Joyner was wearing his lucky shirt.

Those fortunate facts were punctuated by a record-setting effort as the 2007 Hertford-Gates Relay for Life shattered its previous high-dollar mark by raising over $225,000 in the battle against cancer.

“The good Lord led us to this (dollar amount),” said Lassiter who served as the chairperson of this seventh annual event. “I am so proud of what the citizens and businesses of Hertford and Gates counties were able to accomplish. Thanks to their efforts we’re getting closer to finding a cure for cancer.”

The 2007 total, which Lassiter said continues to grow due to Relay for Life teams still turning in money, exceeded the previous record of $221,000 raised during the 2005 event. It also brought the seven-year local total to over $1.3 million.

“It was hectic at times, but it was all worth the effort,” Lassiter noted. “I had such a great committee to work with. We stuck to our game plan and kept up our enthusiasm and our drive.”

Following tradition, the event began Friday where 38 teams set-up camp and prepared for a round-the-clock walk around Chowan University’s Squirrel Park.

By late afternoon, a record-setting 254 cancer survivors assembled for a recognition ceremony. Each was presented a medal and saluted for their respective battle against cancer. Sticking to another honored tradition, those survivors officially opened the Relay by taking the first lap around Squirrel Park.

Following the team-by-team introductions came the most touching part of the weekend, the luminary ceremony. Candles within nearly 2,000 white bags – each bearing the name of a cancer survivor or victim – along with 75 Flames of Hope were lit. Their collective glow cast a warm and loving spirit over the crowd and their light burned bright throughout the night, providing a pathway and inspiration for the walkers.

Despite flashes of lightening connected with a thunderstorm hugging the state line to the northwest and heavy rain in the Ahoskie area later Friday night, neither weather system found their way to Murfreesboro.

“I told you the good Lord was with us,” Lassiter reemphasized.

Punctuated by periods of entertainment, the teams continued to count laps on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, children in attendance prepared for a two-hour Kid’s Walk that also featured numerous activities for the youngsters.

The Kid’s Walk, a big hit in its inaugural run last year, raised over $8,000. Two participants were chosen “Little Mr. Relay” and “Little Miss Relay” for their fundraising efforts. Those respective titles were earned by Addison Paul Hoggard of Millennium and Ciara Pope of Seaboard. Pope was among the highest individual fundraisers (child or adult) for the entire event as she generated $3,158.37.

Nine-year-old Joyah Morris of Murfreesboro was the Kid’s Walk Art Contest winner.

As the event wound down on Saturday afternoon, teams gathered near the main stage for the awards ceremony. Those awards (given to the 1st and 2nd place teams) are as follows:

Corporate Team – Nucor ($42,827) and Metal Tech ($22,070).

Church Team – Union Baptist ($16,972) and First Baptist of Ahoskie ($9,681).

Organization/Club – American Legion Ladies Auxiliary ($7,148) and Melrose Woman’s Club ($6,860).

University Team – Chowan’s Alpha Sigma Tau Delta ($646) and Chowan’s Science and Business Club ($403).

School Team – Gates County Educators ($10,402) and Willis Hare Elementary ($5,010).

Health Care Team – R-C Community Health ($8,113) and Guardian Care of Ahoskie ($8,032).

Family & Friends Team – Cheryl’s Girls ($20,009) and Echoes of Love ($7,706).

Best Campsite – R-C Community Health and Conway United Methodist Church.

Best Banner – Union Baptist Church and Nucor.

Team Spirit – Union Baptist and Echoes of Love.

Light-Up the Night Award – First Baptist Church of Ahoskie and Cheryl’s Girls.

Flames of Hope – Cheryl’s Girls and Echoes of Love.

Rookie of the Year – Conway United Methodist Church.

“Everyone kept asking me was I nervous about reaching our goal of $222,000,” Lassiter concluded. “Well, after I got the news about being a great-grandmother and Don (with Luminary sales) telling me he had on his lucky shirt, I wasn’t at all worried. I had the faith that we would make it.”

And they did…even surpassing it by over $3,000.

All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society in their effort for ongoing medical research and educating the public about the warning signs of cancer.

Even though the 2007 Hertford-Gates Relay for Life is over, the battle vs. cancer continues. Those wishing to make a donation can make checks payable to the American Cancer Society and mail to Evelyn Rawls, PO Box 43, Aulander, NC, 27805.