WILLIAMSON – Hundreds of people attended the 31st annual Tug Valley Relay for Life event held on Friday evening, June 17 at the Lefty Hamilton Park in West Williamson. The event raised thousands of dollars for cancer research.
The event began at 6 p.m. and continued until midnight. Chris Dotson, Event Lead for the Tug Valley Relay for Life stated, “Relay for Life is the largest and signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Relay for Life is a time to gather, honor and celebrate those who are battling cancer, who are still battling cancer, and those who may have lost the battle to cancer.”
There were several booths set up around the football field. Many teams wore their T-shirts proudly and socialized with all of those in attendance.
The “survivor’s lap” began around 6:30 p.m. and many other events and entertainment continued throughout the evening.
The theme for this year’s Relay for Life was Peace, Love and Relay. Various teams set up tents and decorated to reflect the theme.
The event began with the survivor lap which was led by 2016 Mr. and Miss Relay for Life. The 2016 Miss Relay for Life was Shawna Belcher from Varney, W.Va. All survivors in attendance at the event walked the first lap while others stood and honored them. On the second lap, caregivers joined the survivors and were honored as well. Dotson described the first two laps stating, “When you are standing there and you see those survivors walk by, or you see someone walking that lap who is currently undergoing treatment, you will not believe the emotion that you are overcome with. When you see their caregiver grab their arm and help them around, the emotion gets stronger.” On the third lap, everyone joined in.
Friday’s Relay for Life featured many activities. A few of the activities included a dance challenge, live entertainment and acts, a D.J, and food. Dotson described the activities stating, “We have lots of fun and relay activities. There is food, entertainment and something for everyone to do.”
Denny Frost, a former local radio personality, served as master of ceremonies.
After dark, a Luminaria Ceremony was held. Bags with candles lined the walking track with names of those that have battled cancer. Everyone then took a couple of laps in silence as they read the names listed on the bags. “You won’t believe the emotion that one little lit bag will invoke in you,” Dotson said.
According to the Relay for Life website, “The Luminaria Ceremony occurs at every Relay for Life event. As the sun sets, luminaria lining the track light up the night. A hush falls over the crowd that had been overflowing with celebration. Relay for Life participants, survivors, and caregivers then gather to remember loved ones lost to cancer and to honor those whose fight continues. Luminaria bags are transformed and illuminated after dark at every local Relay for Life event. Each luminaria is personalized with a name, photo, message or drawing in memory or honor of a friend or loved one who has been affected by cancer. Luminaria can also be dedicated in support of a Relay participant. Each luminaria candle represents a person. They are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, coworkers, and so many others.”
The website also states that Relay for Life is a global event that more than 4 million people in 20 countries participate in to raise funding and awareness for cancer.
For more information on Relay for Life visit www.relayforlife.org.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)