The threat of a washout couldn’t stop the Relay For Life of Galax and Carroll County 2018’s shout out for cancer survivors and their caregivers Friday at Tommy Thompson Field. Shortly before the scheduled start, the sky darkened and a brief, but sincere rain poured down on participants before the sunshine returned.
“Welcome to Relay 2018. We’re so happy to have you here,” said Event Chair Sally Chitwood. “Those of you here knew it wasn’t going to wash us away. The day has turned out beautifully. I’ve been thinking about this relay, and its theme Once Upon A Cure. I hope that someday when we talk to our grandchildren we can talk about cancer in the same way we talk about polio and smallpox. Once upon a time those diseases were so prevalent in the U.S. Someday, cancer will be the same way and that’s why we are here tonight.”
She recognized Turman Log Homes for the use of a portable stage, Johnson Family RV for a recreational vehicle in use for the event, the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department for its firetruck, the Town of Hillsville and Carroll County High School.
Cancer survivor C.M. Mitchell served as the guest speaker for Relay this year. He said although he lives in Galax he has a close association with Carroll County through his son, CCHS Chemistry teacher Fred Mitchell (who is also a McGlothlin Award recipient). He said the survival rates for some cancers would increase if only more men sought regular care and changes in lifestyle such as not smoking, regular exercise, a healthy diet and decreasing exposure to carcinogens. He told ladies present to make sure the men in their lives got regular screenings.
“This is really an incredibly important event to have in your county and in our whole region, really,” said Mitchell. “When you participate in a Relay For Life event, you become a vital part of the American Cancer Society. You become a volunteer. It is an opportunity to come together. Celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember the loved ones lost and fight back against the disease.”
Melissa Russell provided a personal and poignant moment with a reading of “The Enemy,” written by her late mother, Gwen Bowers. She prefaced by telling of her mother’s struggles with cancer and its complications, which ultimately claimed her life in 2016.
“As chemo and radiation began mom would question, ‘Why me?’ until while waiting for a treatment she saw a six-month old baby with terminal cancer and she thought, ‘Why not me,’” said Russell. “Sickness and cancer never define who she was. Through everything she endured she remained hopeful, steadfast. She kept a smile on her face. She was the hero who wore a cape disguised as nursing scrubs. Cancer and other illnesses took many things from her. Her career. Her home. Her health. It never took away her smile. Her passion for life. Her love for family or her fighting spirit. I celebrate my mom every day of my life. Through her story and her poem I take her final victory lap.”
Bowers wrote “We are true veterans but not from a foreign war/ The enemy lies within us/Every day taking more,” she wrote. “The enemy is a coward if we strive for life/ We have a power stronger than his need to prevail/ We want to live our lives without him to no avail/We show him no mercy/ We surrender not/ For in the end if he overcomes what really has he got/ You’ve lived you life as you’ve seen fit/ You’ve been a fighter/ You haven’t quit/ You are indeed the victor of the battle/ You’re tried and true/ The enemy we call cancer has not defeated you.”
Teams competing in this year’s Relay For Life included 100 Women Strong, AM’s Army, Blue Ridge Chapel Cancer Fighters, CCHS Volleyball, CCMS, Carroll County Retired Teachers, Coulson Church Saints, Heritage Healers, HES-Patriots for Life, Hopeweavers, Kids Kickin’ Cancer, Laurel Wildcats, Lights of Hope, Miracle Makers 2017, Oakland Elementary School, PT Solutions, Queens & Kings for A Cause, Skyline National Bank, Southwest Virginia Home Health Care, St. Paul Tigers and The MouseCUREteers.
Cedar Lane Baptist Church Pastor Ed Bowman gave the opening ceremony prayer and members of VFW Post 1115 presented the colors for the Flag ceremony. The National Anthem was sung by the Carroll County High School Chamber Choir. The Luminary Ceremony included the reading of names by Judy Beasley and Adam Joyce and bagpipes played by Gary Bergeron.
Gold sponsors for Relay 2018 were Blue Ridge Energies and Twin County Regional Healthcare. Bronze sponsors were Skyview Baptist Church, Marlon A. Goad, D.D.S., P.C.; Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady Funeral Home, Gobble Stop, Blue Ridge Concrete, Southwestern Virginia Training Center, Rainbow Creations, Goad Lumber Company, Wal-Mart, Carroll County High School, The Carroll News, The Galax Gazette.
Signature sponsors included Strickland Construction, Inc., Jeff Johnson Chevrolet, Nuckolls Drug, Skyline National Bank, Sowers Construction Company, Burton & Co., Ideal Florist, Russell’s Garage, Inc., Adams Jewelers, G&G Construction, Fancy Gap Service Center, Inc., Isom Collision, The Jackson Law Group, PLLC, Straight Arrow Transmission, Tolbert & Tolbert, LLP, Darrell G. Jennings, Dana’s Styling & Salon, Virginia Produce, Inc., Country Formals & Gifts and Round Knob Baptist Church.
The 2018 Relay Committee included Sally Chitwood as the event chair, Kay Carter as the sponsorship/accounting chair; Debbie Pickett, accounting; Ronald Newman, luminary chair; Angie Robinson, public relations; Judy & Rick Beasley, Survivor Banquet; Krista Murphy, master of ceremonies; Leesa Ayers and Cathy Anderson, survivor registration; Cindy Dixon, Trucker’s Parade; Alicia Dalton, Kid’s Walk Lead and Savannah Collins, Kid’s Walk.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.