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Dorothy and her dog Toto had to endure a tornado in “The Wizard of Oz,” but organizers of the Wilson County Relay for Life are hoping not to recreate that part of the plot even though the classic film has inspired the theme for Friday’s event.
“We do it rain or shine because cancer doesn’t stop and neither do we,” said Bonnie Overby, people leader for the local planning committee. “We did it in the middle of a tornado one year. We took cover for the tornado and after it passed, we picked up all the tents, set them back up and kept going all night.”
The event is from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Wilson Medical Center walking track where 24 teams with 147 participants will have American Cancer Society fundraisers centered around Oz and this year’s slogan: “Follow the yellow brick road for a cure.”
“When we do the survivor lap at 6:30 p.m., everyone with a heart is touched to see all those cancer survivors celebrating another birthday, another Christmas and another Relay,” Overby said.
Among those on the track during the survivor lap will be Doris Lucas, who has been cancer-free for more than 40 years after beating breast cancer.
“I found the lump myself, so I went to the doctor,” Lucas said. “The doctor wasn’t sure, so he had me tested twice (for cancer).”
She had surgery, but didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. A few years later when Wilson County held its first Relay for Life, Lucas’ cousin participated and the second year, Lucas and her sister Margie Turner participated.
“I’ve never had cancer, but I enjoy it and I’ve walked ever since,” Turner said. “It is a good cause and I like knowing I’m doing something good for others.”
Lucas is not their only loved one who has had cancer, so the sisters’ “Walking Toward the Finish Line” team sets out to raise at least $2,000 each year. Their primary fundraiser is a raffle for a handmade quilt.
“When my mother was living, we quilted at her house in the summertime,” said Lucas. “You know how long the days are in the summer, so sometimes the three of us would finish two or three quilts a week.”
This year’s quilt has a Duke University theme. Overby said she’ll still buy raffle tickets even if she isn’t a diehard Duke fan.
“I’ve wanted it every year for 13 years. I’ve bought the raffle tickets every year, but they never pull my name,” Overby said. “Maybe this year will be my lucky year.”
Other team fundraisers include food sales, handcrafted items and games. With the Oz theme, Overby said Wilson Medical Center officials will be in costume and available for pictures.
Also new this year are personalized yellow bricks in addition to the luminary and torches available for sponsorship to honor a survivor or in memory of a loved one.
“It is important to just come out and show your support for people you don’t know. People don’t realize how much of a difference just being there can make in the life of a survivor,” Overby said. “It is good for the heart and for the soul.”
For more information on the event, visit www.facebook.com/acsrelayofwilson/. Wilsonians can register or visit tinyurl.com/y8hbg5eg/ to donate.
“Anyone that hasn’t come to Relay doesn’t know what they are missing,” Turner said. “It is a treat in more than one way.”