Relay for Life represents hope in ongoing battle to defeat cancer

Published 9:04 am Monday, September 30, 2019

Relay for Life has a life-changing mission.

Through a variety of fundraising events, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life hopes to increase awareness of cancer.

This year’s Carter County Relay for Life has been moved to the downtown with events taking place in the Covered Bridge Park. In the past the event has been held at the Elizabethton High School track and for the past couple of years at the Elizabethton Vocational Training Center off Highway 91. Also, the event in past years has been held in June.

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The local event will include music, food, along with the Survivors Walk at 6:30 p.m. and the Luminary Service at 8:30 p.m. Events will begin at 3 p.m.

The local Relay For Life has long been one of Carter County’s most popular fundraising events and involves a large number of volunteers, who work all year long raising funds for cancer research and to provide resources to local cancer victims.

Cancer touches almost every family. It is extremely likely that if you have not had cancer yourself, a family member, friend or neighbor has been a victim.

Despite massive advances in treatment, detection and prevention, too many people every day are diagnosed; too many people go through torturous treatment; and too many people die each year from the disease that touches every neighborhood and community.

Relay for Life started when Dr. Gordon Klatt — a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Wash. — started walking around a track for 24 hours to raise money. His idea grew to a point where cities, towns and villages across the country and the world started forming teams and staging their own Relays and raising millions of dollars.

A typical Relay for Life event was held at a high school athletic field. Teams would set up tents and booths around the track and cook food to sell, hold drawings and auctions, play games and sell goods to raise money. Meanwhile, each team was expected to have at least one member walking the track for the entire event.

The symbolism of walking for 24 hours was simple. Cancer patients don’t get a break. They deal with the disease every hour of the day and every day of the week.

As the years went by, Relay events in smaller towns began to see the number of participants shrink. People were still committed to raising money to fight cancer, but not as many wanted to spend 24 hours at an event.

Groups began to shorten their events to 18 hours, then 12, then 8. This year, the local cancer-fighting group decided to try something different — move it to the downtown with a little different set up. Regardless of the setup, its goal is the same — to draw attention to the ongoing fight with cancer, to celebrate those who have overcome their battle with cancer, to encourage those, who are fighting the disease, and to remember the many who have lost their battle with cancer.

There is a lot of competition for charity money these days. People find it hard to dedicate a lot of time to a cause, no matter how important. Many now want to make donations by phone or tweet or any way but face to face.

Still, there is cancer. It remains. Its eradication will come at a great cost.

Carter County Relay for Life volunteers who continue to work to raise money in the face of changing times and changing attitudes know they can’t pay that cost, but they also understand that every dollar they raise could be the dollar that creates the breakthrough.

To them, the idea of not trying, of not walking the walk with their friends and family and neighbor who battle cancer is unacceptable. Regardless of the size of the event or where or when it is held, Relay for Life continues to make a difference.