Cancer is a insidious disease. Cancer survivors are a hardy and determined lot. Those dedicated to fighting cancer and finding a cure are resolute and unwavering.
So perhaps it is fitting that Relay for Life, which has become a successful signature event for Blount County, has decided to double the fun at the 2010 Relay for Life celebration, which kicks off at 3 p.m. Friday, May 21, on the campus of Maryville College.
Perhaps Relay for Life was just too moving, too powerful and too much fun to pack into 12 hours. The event is going 24 hours this year -- from 3 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday.
In reality, Relay for Life in Blount County is almost a year-long event. Purple signs, announcements of car washes, bake sales, motorcycle rides, flamingo flockings and restaurant specials start in earnest every fall, with teams already formed and money in the till by January. Why not extend the celebration that brings all the teams and the community together for a night that mixes the poignant with the entertaining? For an event where participants stand in reverence to honor survivors one minute, then don wigs and high heels for a Womanless Beauty Review the next, anything is possible.
Linda Whitehead is the 2010 event chair. She says the all-important standards of Relay such as the Survivors’ Walk and the Luminary Ceremony are still the centerpiece of the event, as are the fun activities like the Womanless Beauty Contest and the vendors selling barbecue, fried Twinkies and homemade baked goods.
“The major change is that the event is now a 24-hour event,” said Whitehead. Relay begins at 3 p.m. on Friday and goes full speed until midnight. At midnight, the main stage goes silent, and teams can decide if they want to stay and continue walking the oval around the campus or stop for the night, coming back to resume full activities at 7 a.m. Saturday.
“That’s the major change,” said Whitehead. “People can still walk all night if they want. There will be activities to entertain, and plenty of people on site for those who want to continue walking. We encourage folks to spend the night, or take a break and come back.”
The teams are structured a little different this year as well, said Whitehead. “We have 97 teams. The difference this year is we can have more people on a team where we normally we had to cut it off at 15 per team.” Some groups who had multiple teams because their numbers were higher than 15 are now combined into fewer teams, but with the same or more members.
Anticipation is running high for the financial goal this year. “The goal this year is $365,000,” said Whitehead. “That is $40,000 above what was raised last year.” There is also a friendly competition going on between Blount and Sevier counties for the most dollars raised at Relay. In the past, Madison County in West Tennessee was the main competition, but Sevier County has come on strong this year and is challenging Blount for the top spot in the state.
In addition to the teams, Relay for Life is a fun community event, with even more food vendors this year as well as the teams selling items, leading games and offering everything from Fried Twinkies to back rubs to raise money for cancer research.
Whitehead said folks should come hungry and enjoy the different vendors scheduled to participate, including Applebee’s, Moe’s and TGI Fridays.
“Food vendors will be ready to start selling at 3 p.m. Each tent can have their own concessions as well, and the popular barbecue tents will be back with pork and ribs,” said Whitehead.
Vendors, team offerings and events will be easier to find this year as well, as Relay has produced a program that will be available at each of the four Welcome tents. The programs will list where each team campsite is and what is being offered at each site, including the vendors.
“People can look at the program and know what campsite to go visit,” said Whitehead. “We’re thrilled to have this detailed program this year.”
The silent auction has been moved to the individual team tents this year as well, and there will be no live auction.
New this year is a bike ride that starts Saturday morning with participants choosing a 25, 50 or 66 mile ride on routes throughout Blount County. There is also a 5-k run and a 1-mile fun run on Saturday morning. Entry fees go to Relay for Life, and Whitehead said 150 are already registered for the bike ride and run.
Because you don’t mess with the heart of a successful event, the Survivors’ Walk and Luminaries will see only minor changes.
“The Survivors’ Walk is the highlight of the event,” said Whitehead. “That’s what we are here for -- to honor survivors.”
The Survivors Tent will still be the check-in point for survivors and all names will be called as the survivors walk the first lap, joined on their second lap by their caregivers.
“The Survivor’s Walk is very, very important,” said Whitehead, “and all the teams, the community and all of us will be there, cheering them on as they walk.”
A Survivor’s Tent will be set up for cancer survivors to check in and give their name. Radio personalities from three area radio stations will be on hand to read those names, Whitehead said
Two people who will be front-and-center when the Survivors are honored, beginning at 6 p.m., are Cait McMahan and Tom Click. McMahan, former Lady Vol and Heritage High School basketball standout is the Honorary Relay Chair, and Click, a two-year cancer survivor, is Honorary Survivor chair.
McMahan’s mother, Teresa McMahan, lost her fight with cancer in 2006, but not before seeing her daughter play as basketball on what would be a national championship Lady Vols basketball team. McMahan, who graduated this year from the University of Tennessee with a degree in communications, is interning with the American Cancer Society.
“Cancer hits hard and Relay is dear to my heart,” said McMahan. “I’m representing my mom with this effort and Blount County, because I love Blount County. I just want to show my support.”
The former point guard said the job is to motivate Relay for Life teams and educate others about the research the American Cancer Society does with dollars raised through Relay.
“I also concentrate on the people who don’t have cancer - those are the ones I ride a lot,” she said. “If you think you’ve done enough, you haven’t. You’ve never done enough to raise money and fight cancer.”
Click, who had breast cancer, said he got involved with Relay because not a lot of attention is paid to male breast cancer. “Men aren’t aware of what’s going on. They have to watch themselves, too. It can happen to men as well as women,” he said. “I was lucky to find out in time.”
Both will be on hand to meet teams and greet the community.
At 10 p.m., the Luminaria Event will transform the college campus oval into walkway of light as luminaries - candles lit inside paper bags - are situated along the pathway in honor of survivors or in memory of those taken by cancer.
“That is very special and it is something we’re doing a little different this year,” said Whitehead. “Normally a luminaria bag is a $5 donation, and participants can still purchase those. In addition, however, teams are selling $15 silver bags and $25 gold bags, and the money raised for those bags go toward the specific team’s total, rather than just into the general fund. The response has been wonderful.”
For folks choosing to stay on campus from midnight to 7 a.m., the All-Night Café will be hopping as Marlon Matthews has a host of activities planned, including games of fun and humiliation and activities like Guitar Hero.
“He’s going to be doing different activities with the younger people, too, and everyone is invited to stay and stay up with Marlon,” said Whitehead.
The event chair said there will be special parking for survivors and shuttle service for folks who have to park a distance from the event site. “We’re able to utilize the Clayton Center parking so that will help considerably,” she said.
Whitehead said each team is special in their own way. “Each team has stepped up to the plate and is doing a wonderful job,” she said. “Blount County is a wonderful place to fundraise, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Whitehead said currently there are about 1,000 people signed up to participate in this year’s event, which doesn’t include the community folks who come to enjoy the activities.
“We have a lot who do not sign up online, but they come the day of the event,” said Whitehead. “They can come, shop, eat, relax and know they are raising money for cancer research with every penny they spend that day.”
Whitehead said Relay for Life has a festive atmosphere for a reason and she wants to keep it that way. “It’s a birthday party. We’re dedicated to helping people have more birthdays, so we have one big party,” she said.
And this year, that’s a 24-hour party.
Relay for Life Schedule of Events
Children’s Play Area with Inflatables, games, face-painting will be available after 3 p.m. Friday
Friday, May 21:
3 p.m. -- Opening Ceremony for the event
4:30 - 5:30 p.m. -- Dave Serrat will be performing on the main stage
6 p.m.-- Survivor Ceremony and Recognition
7-9 p.m. -- Smooth Groove performs on the main stage
9-10 p.m. -- First Round of the Womanless Beauty Pageant
10-11 p.m. -- Luminaria Ceremony and Hour of Silence
11 p.m. to midnight -- Finals of the Womanless Beauty Pageant, including Talent Show
12-6 a.m. -- All Night Café at Relay
Saturday, May 22, 2010:
7-8 a.m. -- Registration for the “Hit the Road” 5-k, Fun Walk and Jazzercise
8-11 a.m. -- Team Activities
8-9 a.m.-- Start of 5K Run
8:05 a.m. -- Start of the 1K Fun Walk
9 a.m. -- Start of Hit the Road Cycling Ride of 25, 50, or 66 miles
9:05 a.m. -- Start of Hit the Road Fun Bike Ride for kids and family (1 mile)
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - Pistol Creek Catch of the Day on the main stage
1:15pm - 2:45pm - Laurel Wright performing on the main stage
2:45 p.m. -- Closing Ceremonies
Kicking off Relay the Blount Memorial way
Relay for Life in Blount County truly is an event with activities that start almost as soon as one Relay ends. Blount Today has covered many of those events and thought this special Relay for Life issue of Blount Today would be a good time to share these events.
On Jan. 26, staff at Blount Memorial Hospital kicked off their Relay for Life campaign. Vicki Frazier is director of Health Information by day but when Relay time happens, she is mentor for all 10 of the hospital’s teams.
“The kickoff went well. I’ve had a real good response, and the campaign has gone well,” she said. “We’ve had teams sell blue jean stickers so people could were blue jeans on Fridays. One team sold T-shirts, and one team sold chocolate roses on Valentines Day. We had our annual Spirit Day and raised $5,500.”
During Spirit Day, Frazier said staff had fun and raised money through a variety of activities, including a silent auction. In addition, administrators sold hamburgers and hotdogs, someone made kettle corn, and there was a cutest pet contest, a best legs contest and a coffee bar.
“We’re sitting right at 10 teams to represent Blount Memorial, and our overall goal is $30,000,” she said. “I calculated today, and we’re at $16,000.”
In addition to what the teams will raise at Relay for Life event this weekend, the fundraising can continue after the event is over and still count on this year’s total.
“We’re going to have a used book and media sale on July 9 and 10 at the hospital auditorium,” said Frazier. “Hopefully between now and then, we’ll still be raising money and reach our goal.”