The Relay for Life of Virginia’s Blue Ridge was originally scheduled for May 18 at Rivers Edge North in Roanoke from 6 p.m. until midnight. However, torrential rains during the week led organizers to postpone the event until the afternoon of Sunday, May 20.
Vinton partnered this year with Roanoke City and Botetourt County for the annual American Cancer Society fundraising event in an effort to pool resources and minimize costs. The 2018 Relay adopted theme is “Hoping for a Holiday”— a holiday from cancer.
The event led off with Opening Ceremonies at 2 p.m. featuring Cancer Survivors and Caregiver’s laps around the field. Cancer survivor Carolyn Williams, who founded and facilitated the Vinton Relay with her husband Don in 2008, spoke movingly to the crowd about why she “relays.” Don Williams passed away in 2015 after battling cancer twice; she has been cancer-free for 10 years. Both of their lives were extended due to cancer research and the development of experimental drugs funded by American Cancer Society fundraising efforts.
Relay for Life events help the American Cancer Society not only fund life-saving cancer research, but provide patient support services, prevention and education information, and detection and treatment programs.
Williams and Angie Chewning of Vinton were members of the Event Leadership Team organizing the combined regional event. Sheri Fullen of Vinton opened Relay with the national anthem. Several teams and individuals from Vinton participated including the Flower Children who have been strong supporters of Relay over the years, Gerald Simmons, the Battle at Byrd cheerleaders, and “We Are Thrasher” from Thrasher Memorial UMC.
Organizer Patrick McKee announced that the Relay goal of $160,000 had already been exceeded on May 20 and thanked the host of sponsors who made Virginia’s Blue Ridge Relay possible.
This year’s event included numerous activities— a silent auction, a Trick or Treat lap for survivors, team games at the stage, bouncy houses, and the poignant Luminaria Ceremony at dusk.
“We are so excited about this ‘new’ event and all the communities coming together to help continue in the fight against cancer,” said Aprille Kelly, Community Development Manager for the American Cancer Society Southeast Region.
Sponsors included the Clarence Pace Family, Allstate, WFXR, the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office, the Vinton War Memorial, the William Byrd High School Battle at Byrd cheerleading team, Carilion Clinic, Varney, Bath Fitter, Blue Ridge Cancer Care, the Vinton McDonald’s, cancer survivor Gerald Simmons of Vinton, the Friendship Foundation, the New River Electrical Corporation, Bank of Botetourt, Banks Insurance Agency, L.T. McGhee and Company, the Kelly family, Julian Ferguson and Associates, Hanging Rock Animal Hospital, The Bank of Fincastle, the Daleville Town Center, Springhill Suites Marriott, Shoney’s of Troutville, Country Cookin’ of Troutville, Corrugated Container Corporation, St. Mark’s UMC, and CLED.