Volunteers prepare to ‘Relay’

Published 11:01 am Thursday, April 23, 2009

MURFREESBORO – Perhaps it’s only fitting that National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 19-25) will end with Hertford-Gates Relay for Life.

Without those hard-working volunteers, this annual event held at Squirrel Park on the campus of Chowan University would only be a shell of what it has grown into today.

“I would like to offer a special thanks to the outstanding volunteers who help make Hertford-Gates Relay for Life such a huge success year after year,” said Artie Johnson, co-chair of the local Relay that is set for Friday and Saturday (April 24-25).

Since 2001, Hertford-Gates Relay has raised well over 1.5 million dollars in the fight against cancer, including last year’s record-setting $237,000, a feat that earned national acclaim as the local event led the United States in its population category.

However, the real winners are the cancer survivors as well as those family members still dealing with the grief associated with losing a loved one to the disease.

“We celebrate the survivors’ victory over the dreaded disease we all know as cancer,” Johnson said. “We celebrate the continuing advancements in detection and treatment of cancer. And we honor those who have passed from this life. We will continue to raise funds to help with research so that one day there will be no more pain and suffering from cancer.”

But to make that happen, it requires community support, both the public and private sectors, to back-up the volunteers who work year-round to ensure the current Relay for Life weekend is bigger and better than the previous year.

“Outstanding volunteers throughout our community spend countless hours ensuring our Relay’s success,” Johnson noted. “No words could ever describe the thanks owed to these volunteers. Thanks to these volunteers and others like them across the nation, 90 more people will survive today. That’s right, we saved 90 lives today.”

He continued, “Relay for Life not only raises funds that enables the American Cancer Society to fulfill its mission to eliminate cancer as a major health concern, it also establishes a living platform for the face and voice of the cancer patient, survivor and caregiver. Relay for Life gives people from all walks of life a place to act as change agents and life savers.”

While the two-day event features numerous activities, all open to the public, perhaps the most memorable moment is Friday night’s luminary ceremony. That gets underway at 9 p.m.

“It is once again the volunteers who often go door to door asking family and friends to purchase the luminaries which line the track at our Relay,” Johnson said. “The more than 3,000 lights signify those special loved ones and friends touched by cancer. To the volunteers who sell, organize, prepare and light those luminaries which burn throughout the night in recognition of those touched by cancer, we salute you.”

Relay is another time when volunteers renew their commitment to “Fight Back.”

“As we continue to ‘Fight Back’ through the efforts of our volunteers, we continue to see the many advances in cancer research being made,” Johnson said. “A great number of volunteers work countless hours as committee members, team captains and general volunteers working behind the scenes Fighting Back.”

As has become tradition, thousands of Roanoke-Chowan area citizens gather at Squirrel Park at Chowan University to “Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back.

“This weekend, April 24-25, marks the ninth year Relay for Life has been held at Chowan University,” Johnson concluded. “As a way to say thanks to the many volunteers and to recognize and honor those touched by cancer, please join us as we kick things off on April 24 at 6:30 p.m.”

The event continues throughout the night where teams continually walk around Squirrel Park in an effort to generate funds to benefit the American Cancer Society. Additionally, the majority of the nearly 50 teams involved will offer food, beverages and on-site raffles. There are also numerous activities specifically designed for children.

The event concludes at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Listed as the Platinum sponsors for the 2009 Hertford-Gates Relay for Life are Commercial Ready Mix Products, Chowan University,

Metal Tech of Murfreesboro, Nucor Steel and the Roanoke Chowan News Herald.