Relay teams walk to ‘destroy cancer,’ celebrate survivors

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Despite gloomy forecasts, stormy weather skipped the track at Wilson Medical Center for the majority of Friday night as hundreds attended the Wilson County Relay for Life.

“We want to do everything we can to help and maybe one of these days, we’ll destroy cancer and not have to worry about it,” said Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose. “It takes a lot of money to do that and that is why we’re here tonight.”

All but one of the 24 teams set up their tents, selling food and raffling off goodies while keeping an eye on the overcast skies. The Shining Stars set a goal of $7,000 and already surpassed that mark before the event started Friday thanks to sponsorships from companies like Merck.

“Our friend Linda Wooten had breast cancer and she started the team,” said Susan Lucas, who has been free of ovarian cancer for 19 years next month. “We all did it together, but Linda lost her battle in 2003 and we’ve continued on.”

The team usually has a light-up star at its booth, but members decided to forgo the electricity in case the clouds opened up. Several other teams erred on the side of caution as well and organizers procrastinated on putting out the white and gold bags for the luminaria ceremony rather than risking them getting waterlogged. Once the sun set, though, the candles were lit around the track and participants paused to celebrate survivors and pay tribute to those who’d lost a battle with cancer.

Nobles Chapel Baptist Church at 7330 Old Raleigh Road was new to the event, with pastors Brittany and Chase Caldwell selling baked goods and holding a raffle for a wreath.

“I am actually a nurse as well as a pastor and my background is in oncology and hospice care. I also have a background in the faith health movement to make churches places for holistic health and wellness,” Brittany Caldwell said. “This is a project of our church health ministry team that includes various individuals such as nurses, a psychiatrist and other individuals who care about making our congregation healthier, and that includes community engagement at events like this.”

The Caldwells moved from Texas less than a year ago, so they are hoping to raise more money during the 2019 Relay for Life as they’ll have more time.

Another new addition to the event this year was a sponsorship by 3HC.

“We’re happy to be out here,” said community relations specialist Ben Strickland. “It is important to us to be involved in the community, especially for a cause like this, so we have information about our home health and hospice services. We’ll definitely be back next year.”

Teams can continue to raise funds for the American Cancer Society through the end of the summer. Visit tinyurl.com/y8hbg5eg/ for more information or to donate.