Relay For Life hits milestone

The Inter-Mountain photo by Joan Ashley Out of this year’s Relay For Life total of $26,954.41, Team USA raised the most team money with $7,303.51, followed by the Pendleton County Crusader with $5,859.39 and Pendleton County Banking on a Cure with $4,574.

FRANKLIN — This year, Pendleton County “busted the million dollar mark” in total Relay For Life donations made to the American Cancer Society since the county began Relays in 1999.

“As of Sunday (July 9), Pendleton County Relay For Life raised more than $1,009,000,” said finance chairman Holly Beachler.

“It was an interesting and challenging year,” event chairman Don Harris told an enthusiastic group at Thorn Spring Park last week.

Last year, the West Virginia Cancer Society leadership notified local officials that, due to budget cuts and downsizing, Pendleton would join Grant and Hardy counties to create a regional Potomac Highland group.

“Did we want that? No! We fought back, because we wanted 2017 to make our total donations to grow into $1 million,” Harris said.

The Pendleton group was staffed this year by the Harrisonburg, Virginia, office.

“And we did it! We hit a million. Had we put our tail between our legs and rolled over, there would have been no Relay or future Relay in Pendleton County,” Harris said.

“Now, thanks to the fight our people put up, the American Cancer Society did a restructuring and notified us that Pendleton will keep its own Relay. We’re going to keep the Relay For Life in Pendleton County until a cure for cancer is found,” Harris promised.

“Since participating in Relay For Life in 1999, Pendleton County has won four awards for being No. 1 as the “highest per capita fundraiser in the state,” Harris added. “Our people have stood up, pulled together as a community to fight cancer.”

Donations can still be made by accessing the group’s website at or by sending a check made out to the American Cancer Society, in care of Don Harris, Box 129, Brandywine, WV 26802.

This year, more than 30 survivors were introduced and took a lap walking around the park. Family and caregivers walked a second lap, then joined the survivors for a reception sponsored by the Women of the Moose.

At dusk, more than 500 luminaria, spelling out the word “HOPE,” were set up in the center field. The luminaria were changed to spell out the word “CURE” by Franklin Boy Scout Troop 162, which was in charge of placement.

The Relay’s planning committee included Harris; Freda Calhoun, event and team recruitment; Linda Calhoun, corporate sponsorship; Holly Beachler, finance; Carol Morgan, survivorship; Wanda Hedrick, luminaria; Mary and Green Hedrick and Peggy Pitsenbarger, logistics; Liane Vandevander and Susan Thompson, entertainment; Liane Vandevander, website/public relations; and Denise Hevener, silent auction.

Teams and team captains included: PCB Banking on a Cure led by Judy Snyder; Heart and Soles led by Mary Bowers; Strike Out Cancer Gang led by Pat Sites; Team USA led by Freda Calhoun; Rehabinators led by Cordelia Bogan; Mountaineers: Climbing for a Cure led by Maria Pomales; Silent Warriors led by Bernadette Tierney; Pendleton County Crusaders led by Liane Vandevander and Miarandi Bennett; and Fighting Strong led by Kimberly Bradford.

Out of this year’s RFL total of $26,954.41, Team USA raised the most team money with $7,303.51, followed by the Pendleton County Crusader with $5,859.39 and Pendleton County Banking on a Cure with $4,574.

Donations are used to fund “I Can Cope,” an educational series on living with cancer; “Reach to Recovery,” aid to women recovering from breast cancer; “Man to Man,” a support group for men with prostate cancer; “Road to Recovery,” transportation for ambulatory patients to cancer treatments; “Look Good … Feel Better,” a workshop with local cosmetologists to help enhance appearance; and “Wigs and Prosthetics,” available free of charge to cancer patients requesting them.

“Donations also help with fuel assistance, lodging and anti-nausea medication,” Harris said. “Locals need to call 1-800-227-2345, 1-304-249-5089 or go to to get assistance.”

Following opening remarks by Don Harris, Dr. Kathy Slusher sang the National Anthem while “Colors” were raised by Boy Scout Troop 162. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Alex Adams and Zander Adams. Jason and Jess Felici delivered the invocation followed by guest speaker Marlene Simmons, a cancer caregiver to both her parents. Regina Hedrick introduced the cancer survivors.

Entertainment was provided by DJ J.R. Murray, Liz Bodkin, Lori Bodkin, Solid Angel Band, Neva Davis’s jokes and Mahala Alt.Other activities included a silent auction, a water balloon toss, a sack race, cake walks and contests in frozen t-shirts, hula hoops, and pajamas.

Pendleton County is one of 6,000 communities in 20 countries that has taken up the fight against cancer, Harris said.

“We gathered together in this relay to celebrate, remember and fight back. We won’t stop doing this. This is our 19th year, and, as the Cancer Society says, ‘we won’t stop until there is a cure!’ See you on July 14, 2018,” Harris added.