Regal Relay: Cancer fundraiser takes fight for a cure to community

Christy Lovell shows off her Relay for Life queen crown at the 2010 Relay for Life. This year's Relay is June 3-4 at Maryville  College.

Christy Lovell shows off her Relay for Life queen crown at the 2010 Relay for Life. This year's Relay is June 3-4 at Maryville College.

Charae Lovin, standing, talks with Diane Welch, left, and Vicki Frazier about signing up to be a team member of the Blount Memorial Hospital Band of Blue Relay for Life team.

Charae Lovin, standing, talks with Diane Welch, left, and Vicki Frazier about signing up to be a team member of the Blount Memorial Hospital Band of Blue Relay for Life team.

It takes a lot of teams to fight cancer. And it takes a lot of spirit leaders to keep the teams motivated.

With a 2011 theme of “Blount County is a Team United Against Cancer,” this year’s Relay for Life fundraiser is using cheerleaders to pump-up the spirit at the annual event that kicks off Friday, June 3, at Maryville College.

The only thing is that the cheerleaders working the crowd this year aren’t very dainty. Some are down-right brawny.

Relay for Life event chair Debby Curtis explained that each year the Womanless Beauty Pageant features men from Relay different teams dressed as women who work the crowd for donations for their Relay teams.

“This year we’re putting in a little twist,” Curtis said. “We’re asking the contestants to work with us in honoring our team-focused tagline and dress as cheerleaders. We thought maybe they would like that since they wouldn’t have to wear heels.”

Curtis said the last few days before the big event have been busy, and that Relay for Life 2011 is set to end on a strong note.

“The last week is filled with all sorts of fun. Logistically, we are making sure we have all the details ironed out and making sure we have everything in place to give our survivors the celebration they deserve,” she said. “We’re hitting the road with both feet and feel like we’re gaining speed.”

Curtis said there are 72 teams already signed and more are expected. “I’ve been in contact with a couple of teams who have said they are still going to register. We always end up with a few teams who register the day of the event,” she said.

Friday evening, the Children’s Area will be going. “The fine folks with the Junior Service League help in staffing that. We have inflatables and a lot of fun and laughter,” Curtis said. “We always enjoy having the kids there.”

Parents or guardians purchase a band, and the children can play as long as they want. There is a reduce cost if someone has three or more children, Curtis said.

Curtis said Relay teams always bring excellent food to sell. “We have folks who come back year after year and are constantly fine tuning their offerings,” she said.

Teams will offer everything from hot fudge cake with ice cream to chicken sandwiches, barbecue, hot dogs and hamburgers. One team is bringing homemade beef jerky while another will sell cookies, crackers and snacks, popcorn and tacos.

“One team is bringing fresh fruit to bring a healthy choice, but we’ll also have snow cones and ice cream and non-food items like T-shirts, glow necklaces and bracelets.”

The silent auction is back, but is spread out among the team tents. One item up for bid will be a queen-sized box spring and mattress manufactured by Jameson Bedding. It will be on display in the Marriott Business Services tent. In addition, there will be opportunities to bid on stays at Marriott hotel properties.

“We also have the opportunity to win Chick-fil-A for a year, and the opportunity to win an Orlando vacation,” Curtis said. “There is a beautiful leather chair and handmade baskets..”

Curtis said there will also be a scavenger hunt where folks will have an opportunity to play in a game to visit other tents and different areas to gather information.

“We’ll also have healthy cooking demonstration on stage,” she said. “Blount Memorial Hospital executive chef Jeff Counts will teach us how we to prepare healthy meals because we know a healthy lifestyle is directly correlated to cancer prevention.”

Curtis said the Relay will officially open at 4 p.m. with a small ceremony and then at 6 p.m. the Survivors Ceremony is held, with the laps beginning 30 minutes later.

“When we begin, the first lap is always reserved for our cancer survivors. We want to pay special tribute to them. They are the reason we relay. Immediately after that, we have a lap for survivors and caretakers where we invite caretakers to join their survivors in taking laps so we can applaud them and give the gratitude they so richly deserve,” Curtis said. “Then at 6:40 p.m., we have a team recognition lap where the teams take that first team lap around the track. That sets the stage for team members to begin their walk as part of Relay.”

Curtis said the local band Fishsticks will perform at 7 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. on the main stage. “We’ll have breaks in-between sets. We have a ‘Fight Back’ banner we’ve been taking all over Blount County to different events, and we have invited the folks in the community to sign the banner in a pledge to fight against cancer,” she said. “We’ll unroll the banner and hang it up and show everyone there how Blount County is a team united in fight against cancer.”

Curtis said, “Sometime after the second Fishsticks set, the teams will crank up the Womenless Beauty Pageant.

The event chair said that for those men making the final round, they’ll be expected to give a Relay cheer. “I’m excited to see how that comes off,” she said.

At 10 p.m. the Luminary ceremony will be held. A luminary is a bag purchased at the Relay in memory or in honor of someone who faced cancer. Luminary bags have price points of $5 for the white bags, $10 for the purple bags, $15 for the silver bags, $25 for the gold bags and a Torch of Hope is $100. “You’re helping to fight cancer and honoring your loved one,” she said.

The luminary bags and torches must be purchased by 9 p.m. Then volunteers set them out along the walkway around the oval track.

“It is a very silent time. That particular part, every year it is more and more meaningful as we see names on all those luminaries of people who have fought so hard against this disease,” Curtis said. “These bags are bought in honor and in memory of those who have fought cancer. It amazes me to see the affect this disease has on the community. It’s a little bit of a quieter time, a time of reflection.”

Curtis said something new this year is Reflection Garden. “We place tributes called a Torch of Hope. They purchase this torch in honor of those who are fighting cancer,” she said. “With these, the person gets a large tiki torch with a plaque with engraved names. You can go and reflect and get sense of what the disease is doing in our community.”

The event chair said that at 11 p.m., the final round of the Womanless Beauty Pageant starts.

“We bring all the contestants up and the finalists compete. At midnight, we crown the Womanless Beauty Pageant winner,” she said. “At midnight, we also start what we call the Late Night activities. That is when the stage is taken over by the master of ceremonies for the Late Night, Caleb Gregory. We’re excited to have him come on board this year, and we’ll have activities for folks who can stay up and be energetic all night.”

Curtis said for others who aren’t as energetic, there will be a couple of movies showing on the oval. “This is the first time we’ve done that at Relay. We wanted to have something for folks who weren’t into frozen T-shirt contests and chugging Mountain Dew,” she said. “I think one of the movies is going to be ‘Grease,’ which will be fun.”

The event chair said that at 3 a.m., folks from Maryville Jazzercise will be on hand to lead everyone in some routines to get everyone charged up. “That will get our blood flowing and get us back to where we aren’t so ‘heavy eyed.’ Throughout the entire evening, we’ll have teams selling food and other items. We will announce from stage as teams hitting certain fundraising levels,” said Curtis. “We’ll be encouraging them to continue to help us raise funds to fight cancer throughout the evening.”

At 8 a.m., the “Hit the Road” portion of Relay will start with a 5-K road race starting on the street in front of the Clayton Center for the Arts, looping around the Greenbelt and ending at the Clayton Center. At 8:05 a.m., a 1-mile fun walk will start. “It is not as strenuous and is for folks who want something more leisurely,” she said. “At 9 a.m., we’ll have a bicycle ride portion that will start next to Cooper Athletic Center. We have 25- or 52-mile routes.”

The routes are available on the Relay for Life website. Participants may register the day of the event by arriving an hour before the event starts.

At 8:30, the English Auto Society will set up a car show in the lower parking lot of the Clayton Center. “This is again a first for this event which features English automobiles,” she said.

The closing ceremony for the 2011 Blount County Relay for Life will be at 9:55 a.m. “By then I think everyone will be ready to go home and smile in their sleep knowing we’ve had another successful and fun-filled event,” she said.

Curtis said the take-away she has gotten from serving as Relay for Life chair is the magnitude of the impact that cancer has on the community. “It is not just about the patients, it is about the families, and the people who lose loved ones to this disease and the joy of the people who overcome so we can celebrate as survivors,” she said.

Curtis said corporate sponsors for the 2011 Blount County Relay for Life include Clayton Homes, Blount Memorial Hospital, Marriott Business Services, Vulcan Materials, Alcoa, Newell Rubbermaid and First Tennessee Bank.

“Our event could not achieve the level of success we expect without the tireless dedication and support of our Relay teams,” she said.

Schedule of Events and Activities

Thursday, June 2

* 5-8 p.m. - Team Campsite Setup

Friday, June 3

* 10 a.m.-4 p.m. - Team Setup

* 4 p.m. - Opening Ceremony on Main Stage

* 4 p.m. - Children’s area opens

* 4:10 p.m. - Musical performance -- Holly Loy

* 4:30 p.m. - Show Choir Performance - All that Jazz

* 4:55 p.m. - Survivor Check-In opens

Survivors are encouraged to register as soon as they arrive and enjoy the Survivor tent. To ensure we are able to move fluidly through the ceremony and lap we ask all Survivors to begin gathering at the main stage for reserved seating at 5:30 p.m..

* 5 p.m. - Cooking Demo with Chef Jeff Counts on Main Stage - forms distributed for Scavenger Hunt

* 5:30 p.m. - Survivors will gather in front of the stage for Survivor Ceremony (First 160 seats reserved)

* 5:45 p.m. - Team Recognition

* 6 p.m. - Survivor Ceremony

* 6:30 p.m. - Survivor Lap

* 6:35 p.m. - Survivor and Caretaker Lap

* 6:40 p.m. - Team Recognition Lap

* 7 p.m. - Fishsticks (First Set)

* 7:50 p.m. - Fight Back Ceremony and Team Recognition

* 8 p.m. - Fishsticks (Second Set)

* 8:50 p.m. - Womanless Beauty Pageant (First Round)

Womanless Beauty Pageant Participants must sign in and bring donations to the main stage by 8:30 p.m. to be included in the contest.

* 10 p.m. - Luminaria Ceremony and laps

* 11 p.m. - Womanless Beauty Pageant (Second Round)

Saturday, June 4

* 12 a.m. - Late Night Activities

* 1 a.m. - Mid-Night Movies

* 3 a.m. - Jazzercise

* 6:30 a.m. - Breakfast Time

* 7 a.m. - Team Recognition

* 8 a.m. - Hit the Road - 5k starts

* 8:05 a.m. - Hit the Road - 1 mile fun walk begins

* 8:30 a.m. - Antique Car Show

* 9 a.m. - Hit the Road - Bike Ride begins

* 9:45 a.m. - Team Recognition

* 9:55 a.m. - Closing Ceremony and Remarks

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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