Randolph County Relay For Life keeps walking for a cure

“Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.” This is the slogan for the American Cancer Society’s signature event, Relay For Life, a fundraising community walk to raise awareness about cancer, to fund cancer research and to provide a community outlet for survivors, and those still fighting cancer as well as their friends and family.

The Randolph County chapter of Relay For Life met Monday at the Elkins Depot to prepare for the annual event, set for Saturday at the Town Square in Elkins.

“It’s not just a walk; it’s a full day of events,” said Brittany Small, one of the team leaders, explaining that the event is for newcomers as well. “Everybody is affected by cancer in some way. Anybody is welcome to attend and participate.”

Vanessa Halle spoke at the meeting about her experience with Relay For Life. “Everybody is very welcoming,” she said of the organization. “We all work together to be one step closer to a cure.”

“Everyone has had cancer touch their lives,” said Mary Harding, who has been involved for three years, as a team leader and a committee member for Relay For Life. Harding raises money through donors who agree to pay an amount based on how many miles she walks. She says one of the biggest draws of the walk for her is “the people.”

“There’s such a strong sense of community here,” she said. “It truly is like a family coming together. You just learn so much about people and their stories.”

Judy Ritchie, the Randolph County Relay For Life director, explained that the event is a great opportunity to try to provide some cancer education throughout the day as well, with presentations about various treatments, or testimonies from survivors. Ritchie also explained that the walk is a celebration for the chapter’s hard work all year long.

“It’s a day of free entertainment and local company,” she said. “It’s sort of our grand finale after a year’s worth of fundraising.”

It also is a celebration of the enduring fight against cancer, as the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th anniversary.

“It’s definitely a big year for us,” Ritchie added.

The walk is a way for different organizations and volunteers in the community to come together in various teams to raise money for cancer research and treatment. Each team member takes turns walking around the track throughout the entire event representing that the fight for cancer never stops.

The walk kicks off with a survivor’s reception at 11 a.m. followed by the opening ceremonies. It is customary that all of the cancer survivors present take the first lap, followed by the caregivers and each fundraising team.

After dark, the Luminaria Ceremony begins, in which candles are lit inside personalized bags and are placed along the track as glowing tributes to those who have been affected by cancer. The event will wrap up with closing ceremonies at midnight.

There are many scheduled events going on all day, including a silent auction, a puppet show, a game show, comedy skits, and more. Prizes for the various contests include gift cards from restaurants and stores, jewelry, tools, an air hockey/table tennis set, a dart board with a cabinet, Aerosmith tickets, a Texas Traveller table top and chip set, Vera Bradley products and folding chairs, while a grand prize winner will earn a Shopping Spree from Shop n’ Save.

Saturday’s Randolph County Relay For Life is the first time the event will be held downtown. Handicapped parking is available in the Davis and Trust parking lot and a golf cart shuttle to and from the event. The farmer’s market will be moved to the front of the train depot.

For more information about Relay For Life or the American Cancer Society check out www.relayforlife.com or www.cancer.com.

Contact Chad Clem by e-mail at cclem@theintermountain.com.