By Jessica Lyons
More than 400 local residents banded together on June 17 to share hope and celebrate life at this year’s Watauga County Relay for Life event.
The event was held at Watauga High School from 6 p.m. to midnight to honor those who have lost their battles with cancer, to celebrate the lives of survivors and to raise funds for cancer research. Relay for life is an annual event hosted at many universities and communities around the country.
So far, the event has raised over $71,000, but the total for the event will not be finalized until late July. The top fundraising team was the First Baptist Church Crusaders with a current total of $9,461, followed closely by the Deerfield Dream Team who has currently raised $9,437. All of the money raised goes directly to the American Cancer Society for cancer research.
“The Watauga County Relay for Life is more of a community event than some other relays,” said Carrie Phillips, coordinator of the event. “Community members, churches and businesses all come together to make a memorable night.”
Relay for life is an open event for which anyone can register with a sign-up fee of just $10. Participants do not have to be on a team to join in the fun, but many community members choose to enter the event as teams.
A typical Relay for Life event involves an opening ceremony followed by a lap to celebrate the survivors and a night of events and constant fundraising from the teams. Later in the night, a luminaria ceremony is held to honor those who have lost their lives to cancer and those who are still fighting.
“It’s an emotional event for everyone, because some have lost loved ones to cancer while others could be honoring someone who beat it,” Phillips said.
The mix of high and low emotions makes Relay for Life a sentimental event for all participants. The Watauga county Relay for Life had 23 teams come out to support the American Cancer Society and partake in the event.
“My favorite part of Relay is the survivor lap. It’s truly something to see — cancer survivors and caretakers celebrated by everyone else as they take a lap,” Phillips said.
Although Relay for Life events typically begin in May and end by September, anyone can donate to the American Cancer Society all year round by going to this page. The fundraising calendar is reset Sept. 1, which is when the American Cancer Society will start raising money for the 2017 year.
“This Relay was a great success and met its fundraising goal,” Phillips said. “Part of having a successful Relay in any county is having a strong committee dedicated to making the event the best it can be.”
Anyone who missed the Watauga County Relay for Life can still participate at the Ashe County Relay for Life on July 15 or the Avery County Relay, both taking place from 6 p.m. to midnight on their respective dates.