Relay – times two!

Published 10:42 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

Staff Writers

“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live. So live, live, and fight like hell!”

Those words, spoken by the now late ESPN broadcaster Stuart Scott at the 2014 Espy Awards, will serve as the rallying cry for a pair of local cancer-fighting events that begin tomorrow (Friday).

For the 23rd year, those with a real zeal and passion for continuing to fight cancer and those who support them in that effort will be promoting that battle during the annual Bertie County Relay for Life, the first and oldest Relay in the state of North Carolina.

A portion of the participants taking part in last year’s Northampton County Relay for Life raise their purple glove-covered hands skyward as they celebrate those that have defeated cancer. The 2016 Northampton Relay begins tomorrow (Friday). | File Photo by Cal Bryant

A portion of the participants taking part in last year’s Northampton County Relay for Life raise their purple glove-covered hands skyward as they celebrate those that have defeated cancer. The 2016 Northampton Relay begins tomorrow (Friday). | File Photo by Cal Bryant

This year’s event, like in 2015, has been shortened to a single day of activities at its usual venue of Bertie High School’s Roy Bond, Jr. Stadium. However, it has moved from Saturday to Friday beginning at noon when preparations are due to begin.

Meanwhile, roughly 50 miles west in the town of Jackson, Northampton County citizens and their guests will gather for that county’s fifth annual Relay for Life.

The Northampton Relay begins at 12 noon on Friday and ends 24 hours later on Saturday. That event will take place at the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center, located just north of Jackson on NC 305.

The late Artie Johnson, longtime Bertie Relay for Life chairman, who passed away in April 2015, helped found the Bertie event 23 years ago. To date, the event has raised over $3 million since its inception; and, in 2015 the total raised exceeded over $217,000 for the American Cancer Society.

“The theme this year is ‘Paint Your World Purple’,” said 2016 Bertie Relay for Life chairman Jo Ann Jordan, “and if you look around (Windsor) you’ll see we have plenty of purple bows up.”

In 2015 alone, Bertie County not only reached its donation goal, but it exceeded that goal by approximately $16,000. This accomplishment made 2015 a ‘purple’ event which is one of the highest designations that The American Cancer Society can bestow on a single Relay. Jordan says Bertie County had the highest per capita donations in the South Atlantic Division, equating to $11.77 per citizen.

“This year at the Relay University we were awarded the nationwide award, not just for the seven-state South Atlantic Region, but the entire country,” Jordan remarked. “This makes the sixth, or seventh, year that Bertie County has won that, and it’s because of the people of this county.”

More importantly, Jordan added, Bertie received high marks for having the most survivor registrants in the northeastern North Carolina region.

“All of us have been touched in one way or another by cancer,” Jordan maintained. “Whether we’re waiting for test results or we’re the caregivers.”

There will be more than 70 teams from churches to businesses to individuals that will not only be walking, but also having other on-site fund-raisers.

Numerous teams are slated to participate, to include: Vidant Bertie Hospital, Cedar Landing Baptist Church, Kathy’s Kritters, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Aulander Elementary School, Aulander Medical Practice, Bertie Rural Health Association, Bertie STEM School, Bertie High School, Bertie Early College, Southern Bank, Aulander First Baptist Church, Conoconary Baptist Church, Bertie County Board of Education, Piney Wood Chapel Baptist Church, Askewville Pre-K, Beautiful Zion Baptist Church, Mars Hill Community, Perdue Farms, Inc., St. Elmo Baptist Church, Town of Aulander, Indian Woods Baptist Church, Team Melanomore, First Baptist Powellsville, and Sandy Branch Baptist Church.

Back for a second year in 2016 at the Bertie event will be the ‘Wigs for Kids’ hair donation program. Similar to ‘Locks for Love’, which provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering medical hair loss, or alopecia areata, the wigs provide help to restore the children’s self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers. Beginning at 7 p.m. a beautician will be cutting hair for the hair donation program.

Also all during the day there will be fundraising activities such as face painting; hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries. Pig pickin’ plates prepared by Friends of Relay will also be prepared for sale.

A highlight of the evening program – set for 9 p.m. – will be the Luminaria, whereby loved ones lost to cancer are remembered and those battling the disease are honored by dedicating luminaria bags with candles inside that are illuminated after dark. Each luminaria is personalized with a name, photo, message or drawing in memory or honor of a friend or loved one who has been affected by cancer. Hundreds of the illuminated bags will ring the track at Bond Stadium.

The Bertie event begins at 6 p.m. with opening ceremonies, the formal introduction of the participating teams and the honorary cancer survivors lap.

The Wigs for Kids program is at 7 p.m. followed by the Kids Walk at 8 p.m. Charles Smith will perform Gospel Music from 8:30-9 p.m. preceding the Luminaria Ceremony. The Moonshine Band will take the stage following that ceremony and play until 11 p.m.

Bertie’s Relay closes with an awards ceremony, drawings for several prizes, and a final lap just before the clock strikes midnight.

Northampton County Relay for Life will celebrate its five-year anniversary Friday and Saturday with 24-hour celebration to raise funding for cancer research by the American Cancer Society.

Chairperson Marla Jerman said Northampton’s Relay for Life has been getting better every year and praised the large assemblage of guests gathered to support the many survivors and caregivers in the county.

This year’s relay has a theme of “Toon out cancer. Let’s finish the fight.” People can dress as their favorite cartoon characters to mix humor with the determination to defeat cancer.

Jerman said the event will be a busy fun-filled 24 hours of entertainment.

Teams will be walking throughout the day and night. The event host this year is Rev. Quientrell L. Burrell, Jr. of First Baptist Church, Weldon.

Following the opening ceremonies, a survivors’ reception will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

At 6 p.m. survivors, caregivers and kids under 12 will walk around the track, led by the Northampton County High School Band. A parade will follow.

At 7 p.m. there will be a Victory Dance, a fashion show, and a comedy show featuring George Jerman, who has performed at New York’s Apollo Theater.

At 8 p.m. there will be a Motown Review.

At 9, there will be a luminary ceremony in memory of or in honor of those who have battled with cancer.

Starting at 9:30 p.m. there will be Gospel singing and praise dancing.

At 10 p.m. American Idol finalist Vernon Futrell will sing followed by a dancing contest 30 minutes later.

A movie will be on tap at midnight and team activities will be held all night long until 8 a.m. Saturday at which time Seaboard VFW will lead a military walk.

Registration will also begin at 8 a.m. Saturday for a motorcycle ride around the county. That tour begins at 10 a.m.

A car and truck show will be on display featuring five categories.

The final lap of Relay for Life is set for 11:30 a.m., with the closing ceremony at noon.

Jerman suggests participants bring a lawn chair and a blanket.

There will be numerous fundraisers throughout the 24 hours.

“We will meet our goal this year,” Jerman said. “I encourage everyone to take part. This will be a fun, action-packed weekend.”

Northampton has met its goals every year and this rural, sparsely populated county has raised over $200,000 in the battle against cancer in just four years.