Always keep the hope: Carter County Relay For Life caps off successful night at TAD

Published 9:08 am Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Carden   Teresa Payne, white shirt, Abby Paulson and John Payne take a moment to remember Joan McElrath, Teresa's mother, during the luminaria ceremony Friday night during Relay For Life.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Teresa Payne, white shirt, Abby Paulson and John Payne take a moment to remember Joan McElrath, Teresa’s mother, during the luminaria ceremony Friday night during Relay For Life.

“I walk all night so that someone may walk another day,”
The Carter County Relay For Life opened up Friday evening at Brown Childress Stadium on the T.A. Dugger Middle School campus and spanned throughout the night until Saturday morning with high marks that resonates with the popular Relay For Life saying, according to Relay For Life co-chair Charity Odom.
This year’s Relay For Life event was moved to the middle school due to construction taking place at LaPorte Track near Elizabethton High School. Even though it was a new site, it was welcomed throughout the evening, Charity.
“We loved it at T.A. Dugger,” she said. “Elizabethton High School has been so kind to us letting us use the high school track but we were able to have so many positives at the middle school. There was more access to restrooms for cancer survivors, there were bleachers available, so people didn’t have to bring just their lawn chairs for seating. We’re glad we didn’t have any, but the cafeteria was also provided incase of any bad weather. We had a lot of compliments from the survivors … it was a great night.”
Charity, who co-chaired this year’s event with her husband, Greg, added that the Relay For Life event – along with previous fundraising endeavors through the year – saw the Carter County affiliate raise approximately $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. The total is at the halfway mark of the what the group set as their goal for this year and Odom was quick to praise the efforts of the 25-plus teams, Amy Hopson, regional director for ACS, Kathy Thomason and Jeremiah McClain, along with the host of other volunteers in attendance.
“There were so many to name,” she added. “Everybody did their part to make the event such a success.”
While a new location was determined, the normal events from previous years took place, including the third annual 5K Glo-Run run through downtown Elizabethton. With Tammy and Tim Howard navigating runners outside the Brown Childress Stadium, Odom credited everyone that assistance, including race director Kristi Smith and assistant Regina Stevens.
“I just want to thank everyone that helped out with the race,” she said. “All the volunteers, the city, the police department and the electric department – without them, the race wouldn’t be possible.”
The race evidently peaked the interest of many across the country, including Alan Amaya, from Texas, who won the event.
“I actually came to Johnson City for a research position through a summer internship,” Amaya said after finishing the race. “I play soccer back home, so I’ve been running to keep in shape. These 5Ks have been keeping me in shape and the cause is obviously something great to be part of. I actually found out about this race online.”
Amaya made be from ‘Lonestar State’ but Elizabethton made its impression on the runner.
“This is a very quaint town,” he added. “There’s a lot of authenticity here. Everyone is very friendly and it seems like this would be a great place to leave.”
Small town communities breed togetherness, which is the main item stressed by Relay For Life, Odom said. Whether it comes from the luminaria ceremony, time to honor caregivers or hearing stories from survivors, the Relay For Life gives time to come together and continue the hope while battling through the disease. The teams of Valley Forge Christian and Donna’s Dream team assisted with the luminaria ceremony.
“As a survivor, it lifts your spirit,” Charity said. “Taking time to remember those who are battling and the caregivers that help with day-to-day activities, it’s an incredible thing.”
Inspiring hope was the key behind the survivors’ lap, Charity added. Cancer survivors who stood at the front of the line were asked to look back before the lap, taking a glance at each survivor who have survived for multiple years.
“Cancer has affected our family,” she said. “Myself being a personal survivor and my husband lost his father to cancer. All the family members … it led us wanting to chair this year’s event.”
Keeping up the timeless tradition of walking until 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. – Mickey Bennett walked the entire time for 25 miles in honor of his family. His wife and father passed away due to cancer and his sister and currently going through treatment.
“He walked the entire time,” Odom said. “He always attends and we even told him how much we appreciate his time and help with the event. That’s really what Relay For Life is all about, going from start to finish, rallying together to find a cure for cancer.”
Events will continue on through the year as the Carter County Relay For Life aims for their donation goal. For more information, or to donate, visit online and search for Carter County.

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