BUCKHANNON – On Saturday, volunteers, team leaders, cancer survivors and family members gathered for a party of sorts – the kickoff of the 2019 Upshur County Relay for Life, the theme of which is Relay for Life Party Gras.
The event, which took place at Christian Fellowship Church, serves as a wrap-up event for the 2018 Relay for Life as well as a time to prepare participants for the 2019 event. This year’s relay is scheduled for July 20 at Jawbone Park from 4 to 11 p.m.
Michael Alkire, senior community manager, Relay for Life, said Saturday’s get-together was a social event intended to mark the start of the 2019 Upshur County 2019 Relay for Life.
“Today, we are getting together to enjoy soup and sandwiches, give out a few awards, give away a few door prizes and get things kicked off for our event, which will be held July 20 at Jawbone Park,” he said.
Alkire said he has been working with Relay for eight years and has yet to find a single person who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way.
“It is either personally, a friend, a family member or a co-worker,” Alkire said. “I think Relay for Life is a good way to battle the disease – people can help raise money for research and awareness. It is a good opportunity for others to learn about ways to be tested and the things we help to fund.”
In 2018, there were 13 Relay for Life teams in Upshur County, and they raised $53,000. This year, so far, there are 11 teams from last year that have re-upped and one new team. Alkire said this year’s goal for Upshur County Relay for Life is $50,000.
“We have already raised a little more than $1,500 so far for 2019,” he noted.
During the meeting, two women were honored for their part in the 2018 Upshur County Relay for Life. Peggy Ball received the Virginia Zirkle Heart of Relay Award, and Marjorie Westfall received the Glenda Smith Spirit of Relay Award.
Upshur County Relay for Life Committee Members Lori Harris and Daisy Hunt talked about the planning that goes into Relay for Life.
“Today we are having our kick-off,” Hunt said. “This year’s theme is Relay for Life Party Gras, and mostly, this is just a big party to get everybody pumped up for the year. Through the year, we will have planning meetings and fundraisers. The night of Relay, we have another big party, including music.”
Hunt said during Relay for Life, participants will walk laps and celebrate the lives of those who have survived cancer, while remembering those who have passed away from the devastating disease.
Hunt, herself, is a breast cancer survivor.
“It will soon be 17 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “Relay for Life, for me personally, if I would get cancer again, it would give me the knowledge that there are people who are putting themselves out there to make a difference by doing what they can to help out.
“Each little bit helps,” Hunt added. “Every penny adds up to a dollar, and every dollar adds up to $10 and all the way up. Our little bit here is just a drop in the bucket. There are Relay for Life events all over the United States and the world.”
Harris said she volunteers with Relay for Life because she has family members who are dealing with cancer.
“Working with Relay for Life helps … it helps with the stress and with getting through this,” Harris said.
Hunt said Harris is the main organizer for Upshur County Relay for Life.
“Without her help, I would be lost,” Hunt said. “On the spur of the moment I make a good worker, but organization is not my strong point.”
Harris said she encourages everyone to come out and volunteer with Relay for Life.
“Everyone is welcome,” she said. “If you want to join a team, just get on the Upshur County website and sign up. Our next meeting is at Chapel Hill UMC on Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m.”
Upshur Relay for Life’s website can be found at www.relayforlife.org/upshurwv.
Hunt said WVU Medicine St. Joseph’s Hospital is a big supporter of the Upshur County Relay for Life.
“They not only donate money to the Relay for Life, but they also sponsor a team,” Hunt said. “They give us stuff for bake sales and such. Anything they can help with, we have got it.”
This year, Upshur County Relay for Life has selected a mission statement – “For the taken, we mourn. For the sick, we support. For the survivor, we stand. For the future, we walk on hand in hand.”
The next meeting for the Upshur County Relay for Life is slated for Jan. 24, 2019 at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, located at 88 S. Kanawha St., in Buckhannon. Committee members will begin at 5:30 p.m. and team members begin at 6:30 p.m.