Finish the fight!

Published 9:31 am Thursday, May 15, 2014

WINDSOR – As reggae singer Bob Marley, himself a victim of this dreaded disease, once said: “Don’t give up the fight!”

More closely, the fighting spirit echoes in the words of that famous N.C. State basketball coach: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!”

For the 21st year, those with a real zeal and passion for fighting cancer will continue that battle during the annual Relay For Life of Bertie County, the state’s oldest such event.

Beginning at 12 noon Friday with site set-up then opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. and lasting throughout the night and into late Saturday morning at the Bertie High School football field, Bertie Relay officials have grand plans for this milestone event. A busy agenda of activities includes the traditional salute to cancer survivors and victims, highlighted by Friday’s luminary ceremony at 9 p.m.

Returning to the stage at Relay at 10 p.m. will be local musical group – Moonshine. This rock band consists of members primarily from Bertie and Hertford counties – Tony Fornes, guitar and vocals; James Lane, bass and vocals; R.T. Johnson, guitar and vocals; Jimmy Pelt, drums and vocals; and Cliff Jernigan, sound and light engineer.

Then at 12 midnight will come one of the big highlights of this year’s event: the “Pageant with a Purpose” WomanLESS Beauty Pageant.

“We’ll have some of the area’s school principals who are going to be competing,” said 2014 chair of the Bertie Relay, Artie Johnson. “We’ll also have a lot of different teams that will have different participants in the pageant itself.”

As an added attraction, at 1 a.m. there will be “Theme Laps”.  The first will be the Western Lap where participants are encouraged to dress in western garb like a cowboy or a cowgirl.  That’ll be followed throughout the night/early morning by a School Spirit Lap where you can dress in your favorite college team’s colors.  Other laps include: Celebrity Lap, Holiday & Beach Lap, Crazy Hat Lap, Wedding Lap, Movie Lap, Brassiere Lap, Oldest Relay Shirt Lap, and Wake up Lap, where you’ll be encouraged to make lots of noise.

As a break from the theme laps there will be Karaoke Time at 1:30 a.m.

Saturday’s agenda includes a sunrise service including special music by Rev. Gary Cordon; the Kids Walk at 9 a.m. and the return of the “Road to Recovery” Pinewood Derby competition conducted by the Windsor Cub Scouts. You may bring your car and sign up at 8:30 a.m. The Pinewood Derby race will help Bertie Relay promote and recruit drivers for the Road To Recovery program.

Relay will conclude with a closing ceremony at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday with a final celebration walk.

Johnson says that every year it’s the way this disease has touched him personally that makes him want to fight.

“In April of 2012 I was once again reminded of how important it is that we continue our fight when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” Johnson said.

“Sadly, she passed away from the disease as did a number of my family members,” he said with sad reflection.

“Our family has had a number of other members who have been diagnosed with cancer,” Johnson added. “I lost my father to lung cancer when I was 17. My grandmother passed away when I was younger with stomach cancer. Just last year my mother-in-law was selected as our newest survivor. She was diagnosed in April, and she passed away in June. Both of my in-laws have passed away from this disease. But there is hope: my sister is a breast and kidney cancer survivor. Like so many other families we have had far too many diagnosed with this dreadful disease.”

Johnson said while his family has been forced to climb medical mountains over the years, he feels stronger for the effort, much like Bertie County itself.

“We’ve raised over 20 million dollars in this county over the past 20 or so years,” he noted.  “Our goal this year is $264,000. The people throughout this community have shown their dedication and perseverance to its fellow citizens and seeing that support through this county’s many natural disasters that we’ve overcome reminds me so much of the fight against cancer.”.

Relay For Life is the number one fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, but Johnson stressed it is much more.

“We were actually number-one in the nation in our population category again this past year,” Johnson contended.  “It’s based on the population of each county. Many people say they can’t join because they don’t have any extra time to fund raise.  I ask you to please join us because it is about a community taking up the fight. It is about increasing awareness. It is about joining together to show your support of those numerous family and friends who have been touched by cancer.”

Johnson said the public’s general presence at the survivor introduction ceremony and celebration lap would mean so much to those facing their personal battles each and every day.

“Please join us in showing our support and appreciation to these heroes of hope,” he said. “Following the survivor celebration and caregiver support lap, you can get a glimpse of the many teams who have joined the fight. Then sit back and enjoy some great entertainment and great music by the Moonshine Band. Be sure to stop by our many Relay For Life campsites and enjoy some good old southern cooking with many selections from which to choose.”

Teams participating in the 2014 Bertie Relay include the Bertie County Health Department, Vidant Bertie Hospital, Cedar Landing Baptist Church, Kathy’s Kritters, the Pink Warriors, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Aulander Elementary School, Bertie Rural Health Association, Bertie STEM School, Pirates Club, Bertie High School, Aulander First Baptist Church, Conocanary Baptist Church, Bertie County Board of Education, Indian Woods Baptist Church Youth, Beautiful Zion Baptist Church, Bertie Early College, Kickin’ Cancer, Perdue Farms, Melanomore, St. Elmo Baptist Church, Town of Aulander, Indian Woods Baptist Church, Church of God for All People, Oak Grove Baptist Church, and Sandy Branch Baptist Church.