HAVELOCK — Cancer survivors and supporters cheered as they walked around the track of Havelock High School Saturday during the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Carteret-Craven.
The event kicked off at 5 p.m. with opening ceremonies and cancer survivor and caregiver laps.
“Everyone is here for the same reason: to put an end to cancer,” event organization Stephanie Carpenter said. “We all have different reasons, but we are all here to help stop cancer from affecting anyone else.”
This was the second year organizers combined Carteret and Craven counties for a one-day event and held a festival versus an overnight campout. This was done to bolster participation, which has fallen off the last few years, according to Karen Fletcher of Newport, Relay for Life coordinator for Carteret and Craven counties.
“We’re hoping for a good turnout,” Ms. Fletcher said. “We’ve had some challenges this year because so many families were affected by Hurricane Florence.”
Despite the challenges, those who attended made up for numbers with enthusiasm. The theme for this year was “Passport for a Cure!”
While much of the event was light-hearted, there were somber moments as luminaries were lit in memory of those who have died of cancer or who are still fighting.
The emotional survivors’ lap kicked off the annual event, with families and supporters cheering the cancer fighters on as they held banners and walked around the track. The second lap was nearly as emotional as caregivers joined their family members for the walk.
Among the many cancer survivors who walked the first lap was White Oak Elementary School guidance counselor Ashley Jones of Newport, a breast cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor.
“For me personally I just finished chemo treatments for breast cancer and I thought this would be a great way to end my journey while helping others,” Ms. Jones said.
A coworker, WOES teacher Amy Lee, also a breast cancer survivor, invited Ms. Jones to be a part of her Relay for Life team, Amy’s Angels.
“I came out for this last year and got really excited about it and how the community supports it,” Ms. Lee said. “It just brings together this community of survivors who care for each other. I just like the togetherness.”
Thankfully, Ms. Lee is cancer free, which is a reason to celebrate.
Relay for Life events are important to raise money for cancer research, according to cancer survivor Bobbi Jones of Otway, a nurse at Carteret Health Care in Morehead City.
While Ms. Jones has been participating in Relay for Life events since 2007 in memory of her nephew, this was her first time walking in the survivors’ lap. She was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2014 and breast cancer in 2017.
“I am starting chemo treatments Monday (Sept. 23) so walking in the survivors’ lap was a little emotional,” Ms. Jones said following the lap. “It’s a little scary but it’s nice to see the support. This is about sharing with people who have gone through it and come out on the other side. This is an inspiration for me as I start my journey.”
As of Tuesday, the event had raised $50,196 toward its $100,000 goal, according to the Relay for Life website. Participants will continue to raise money.
Ms. Fletcher thanked all the participants, donors, sponsors and vendors that made the day a success.
To donate to the cause, visit relayforlife.org/ccnc.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.