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Big effort yields bigger reward

Surviving cancer leads to an emotional celebration by this participant in the 2013 Hertford-Gates Relay for Life as she raises her hands to give thanks for another day. For additional photos from the event, visit the News-Herald’s Facebook page. Photo by Amanda VanDerBroek

Surviving cancer leads to an emotional celebration by this participant in the 2013 Hertford-Gates Relay for Life as she raises her hands to give thanks for another day. For additional photos from the event, visit the News-Herald’s Facebook page. Photo by Amanda VanDerBroek

MURFREESBORO – Go big or go home.

This weekend those who participated in Relay for Life decided to do the former rather than the latter in the continued fight against cancer.

The 13th annual Hertford-Gates Relay for Life, held on Friday and Saturday in Squirrel Park on the campus of Chowan University, surpassed its intended goal of $226,000.

During the event’s closing ceremony on Saturday organizers announced this year’s Relay collected $237,660.47. Fundraising for Hertford-Gates Relay will continue until August when the event officially closes out.

“That is fantastic,” said Jackie Brinkley, who co-chaired Relay with Angie Plaunty.

The funds raised at the 24-hour event will go toward programs and services offered by the American Cancer Society.

The 43 teams involved in the Hertford-Gates Relay offered food and items for sale, raffles and other activities to those who came out to support the event. Special guests at the event this year were those members of the American Cancer Society’s South Atlantic Division.

During the opening ceremony the audience heard from Bonnie Langdale, a cancer survivor, and Crystal Herring, a caregiver.

Langdale was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 1999. The next year, she was invited to the Bertie Relay for Life where she discovered others facing (or had faced) the very same disease.

“Just seeing all those people there for the same reason, that made me feel that my family and I were not alone in my fight for my life any more,” she said.

Langdale later got involved with Hertford-Gates Relay which began in 2001.

Herring, who is the area’s American Cancer Society director, lost both of her parents to cancer. She was caregiver to both throughout their battles.

“From the experiences with my mom and dad I learned so much and gained a great deal as well,” Herring said. “While being by their sides and have supported them in so many ways, it gave me a strength and a sense of faith I don’t believe I could have attained at such a young age in any other way.”

She continued by saying, “To all the caregivers out there this evening—thank you for what you do. Your courage, your dedication, your strength, your faith; it is these traits that carry us all of us through this battle.”

Before the Kids Walk on Saturday morning, participants saw a special exchange between the newly crowned Little Mr. Relay Latham Pittman and Henry Hodges, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year.

Pittman gave his money from the prize to Hodges, a simple act of kindness that brought many witnesses to tears.

Nucor’s John Grace was bestowed the Relay Impact Award.

Plaunty said Grace encouraged 140 more co-workers involved in payroll deduction and raised their contribution by approximately $100,000.

The Heart of Relay Award went to a familiar and faithful supporter of the annual event, Ray Felton of Metal Tech.

Brinkley said Felton is always willing to assist with Relay from driving tent pegs into the ground to “giving the shirt off his back, literally.”

Brinkley said Felton is “a man of his word” who loves Relay and is involved on the local and state level in order to look for ways improve the Hertford-Gates event and make it even more successful.

“Ray Felton is not just a man who gives metal and wood and stuff like that; he actually gives his heart,” said Brinkley.

Other Relay awards went to:

 Flame of Hope Award:

1st: Echoes of Love

2nd: Hearts of Hope

 Light Up the Night Award:

1st: Echoes of Love

2nd: Metal Tech

 Team Spirit Award:

Conway United MethodistChurch

 Pack the Track Award (signed up the most survivors):

Hearts of Hope

 Best Campsite:

1st: Echoes of Love

2nd: UnionBaptistChurch

 Best Team Theme:

1st: GatesCounty Educators

2nd: Piggly Wiggly

 Best Team Banner Award:

1st: Guardian Care

2nd: Melrose Woman’s Club