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Bertie Relay may exceed $200,000

A cancer survivor celebrates another birthday by accepting a purple balloon during the opening ceremony of Friday’s portion of Bertie Relay for Life held at the high school football field. Staff Photo by Thadd White

WINDSOR – Bertie Relay for Life is on track.

The Bertie County Relay for Life – the granddaddy of those in the region – celebrated 19 years of working to fight the dreaded disease of cancer Friday and Saturday at Bertie High School.

After this weekend’s festivities, Relay co-chairs Glenwood Mitchell and Codie Bartley feel good about the county reaching its $197,000 goal which will help the American Cancer Society in its ongoing battle against the disease.

“At the closing ceremony, we had collected $166,402.36,” Mitchell said. “What we already have on file that has yet to be collected would put us up to $206,911.36.”

He said the money would be collected both from payroll deductions at Perdue Inc. in Lewiston Woodville and from teams that still had money to collect.

“I think we will reach $207,000 before all is said and done,” Mitchell said.

Relay for Life has changed a lot in the 19 years it has been an annual event in Bertie County, but Mitchell said those changes have had some good results.

“I feel great about the participation,” he said. “It was not as many as when we started 19 years ago, but the ones who were there wanted to be and they were a lot of fun. The crowd was energetic and excited.”

That began with the kickoff at 6 p.m. Friday when a host of cancer survivors from Bertie County and the teams for the event were welcomed by a host of dignitaries.

The event began with the Rev. J.R. Thomas of United Outreach Ministries providing an Invocation.

After the Bertie High School JROTC presented the colors, Pam Chamblee sang the National Anthem as people stood in honor of the American flag and the country it represents.

Bartley then made her way to the podium and talked about why the event is held.

“We are all here for the same reason – to put an end to cancer,” she said. “Mr. Mitchell and I have different reasons to Relay as we all do, but though our reasons are different, we want to come together. Together we will continue to fight back.”

Mitchell talked about the way Relay brought a senior citizens like himself with a young person like Bartley to work together to make Relay happen. He then talked about the theme of the event – “Imagine Bertie County with More Birthdays.”

“We are here to celebrate life,” he said.

Bertie County Board of Education Chair Gloria Lee welcomed the crowd to Bertie High.

“As I was driving up I could feel excitement in the air with Pam Chamblee singing and everything that was going on,” Lee said.  “On behalf of the Bertie County Board of Education and Bertie High School, we are pleased and honored to host the 2012 Relay for Life event. This feels like home for Relay.”

Lee, herself a survivor, said she lost her husband to cancer and reminded the crowd that everyone comes together during the event to fight the disease.

Next to speak was Superintendent of Bertie County Schools Dr. Debbie Harris-Rollins.

“Everyone’s reason to Relay is as unique as their own story,” Harris-Rollins said.

She called herself as “Surthriver” and said she would continue to help with efforts to fight cancer.

Megan Booth-Mills, the Director of Planning and Marketing at Vidant Bertie Hospital, served as Mistress of Ceremony. She recognized the efforts of Jeff Stalls, Director of Operations at Perdue in Bertie County, for his and his company’s efforts towards making Relay for Life a success.

Windsor Mayor Pro-Tempore Bob Brown was the next to welcome the audience.

“We as the town of Windsor welcome you,” Brown said.

He then talked about his initial encounter with Relay for Life and how important the event has been for the past two decades. He said he had lost good friends to the disease.

“We need a cure,” he said.

Bertie County Commission Chairman L.C. Hoggard III then spoke.

“Happy Birthday, God Bless you and God keep you strong,” he said. “We welcome you on this special occasion, especially the survivors of this dreaded disease.”

Bertie County Sheriff John Holley also spoke, saying his office was “honored to be here.”

“We hope our service will not be needed, but we are here just in case,” he said.

Also on the program were Jeffrey Dial of Vidant Bertie Hospital and Golf Pro Daniel Sumerel of Scotch Hall Preserve.

Dial spoke about the hospital’s desire to help with prevention as well as after a diagnosis while Sumerel presented a check for $8,500 as part of the profits from Scotch Hall’s charity tournament.

Following the ceremony, each of the survivors was honored and then they led in walking the first lap.

Mitchell said he was grateful for those who participated.

“Codie and I feel great about the weekend,” he said. “We had fun working together and that’s important. I think the event was a lot of fun.”

He said the two were thankful for Stalls and Perdue and all they mean to Bertie Relay for Life. He also praised Holley and the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office for their work.

“We are appreciative of everything they did to make Relay successful,” Mitchell closed.