Vinton Relay for Life campaign underway for 2017

The Vinton Relay for Life organization kicked-off its 2017 fundraising year with a dinner at William Byrd High School on January 23. In attendance were (from left): Roanoke County Schools Chairman Tim Greenway, William Byrd Principal Tammy Newcomb, American Cancer Society Community Manager for Relay Courtney Baker, Vinton Relay Co-Chair Carolyn Williams, and Sponsorship Chairs Carol and Gerald Simmons. Angie Chewning again co-chairs the Vinton Relay but was unable to attend.

Vinton Relay for Life kicked-off its annual fundraising campaign at William Byrd High School on January 23.

The tradition continued of holding a potluck dinner in the cafeteria to get the year started, organized and decorated by the Service Learning classes at WBHS and their Marketing teacher Jessica Catley.

This year’s Vinton Relay for Life event is scheduled for May 5. The location is yet to be determined because the stadium and field at William Byrd will be closing on April 15 for replacement of the field with synthetic turf and for major upgrades to the track and practice fields.

Several alternate sites are being considered, as organizers look for a location that is handicapped accessible to accommodate cancer survivors who participate in the Survivors Walk, which opens the ceremonies each year.

WBHS Principal Tammy Newcomb described the temporary relocation of just this year’s Relay as a “bump in the road” and noted that William Byrd students have been an integral part of the fundraising event since its inception. Last year the William Byrd cheerleaders alone contributed over $11,000 to the Vinton Relay, raised at their annual Battle at Byrd “Cheer 4 a Cure” competition.

School Board Chair Tim Greenway brought the blessing before dinner, praying that cancer would be “stamped out in our community, our state, our country, and the world.”

Carolyn Williams and Angie Chewning once again are serving as co-chairs of the Vinton Relay.

Williams is a 10-year cancer survivor who brought the annual Relay event to Vinton in 2008 while she was still undergoing treatments. She told the crowd that she has long wondered why she has survived while others, like her husband, Don, who passed away in 2015, have not.

However, she says she is determined to make the most of that time she has been granted by redoubling her work with Relay for Life. She receives many calls from those newly diagnosed with cancer and tries to provide a “listening ear and a loving heart,” in a fight against a “mean, hateful disease.”

Carol and Gerald Simmons continue as Sponsorship Chairs, recruiting businesses and corporations to contribute to the event.

This year’s theme is “Cancer: Not Here, Not There, Not Anywhere,” based on the Dr. Seuss series of books. Suzanne Bell, captain of the Flower Children Team, introduced the theme with a reading from the Dr. Seuss classic, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

Over $1,200 had been raised for 2017 even before the dinner got underway. Nearly $800,000 has been raised in the years that the Vinton Relay has been taking place.

Courtney Baker, the Community Manager for the local American Cancer Society Relay for Life events, presented several awards for the 2016 campaign. Team Hope was presented an award for being the 2016 Top Fundraising Team in the Virginia/West Virginia Territory, raising $33,000.

Gerald Simmons received the Top Fundraising Relay Participant award in the Virginia/West Virginia Territory for raising $28,880 for the cause. He also was named the Top Fundraising Relay Participant for the South Atlantic Division. Simmons thanked the Clarence Pace family for their generous donations to the Vinton Relay which have led to those awards, and more through the years.

Baker announced that the Vinton Relay won the All-American Relay Award for “embodying the true spirit of what Relay for Life represents.”

The goal for 2016 was $72,500, but the Vinton Relay surpassed that goal by raising $85,000. The goal this year is $100,000. These funds go to cancer research, education programs, treatments, and services to those diagnosed with cancer.

The Vinton Relay is adding an extra incentive to encourage participation this year, awarding a substantial prize for the Best Decorated Tent on the evening of the competition– a 32-inch flat screen TV.

Teams and participants can register online at

More information on the Vinton Relay is available from Baker at

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