The day was perfect — not a cloud in the sky, warm temperatures and a slight breeze — as the crowd gathered to begin the first leg of the 2012 trek to Dark Horse Stadium of the Relay Torch Saturday. The Relay Torch organizers said they were very pleased with the number who came out to escort the torch from the Clinton Oncology Center on Beaman Street to Clinton Family Worship Center, the site of the now annual Survivors Dinner.
Sherry Massey, Relay for Life co-chairwoman, attested that this was the best year yet.
“We had 40 people walking in honor or in memory of a loved one. Everyone took turns carrying the torch while we walked from the Cancer Center to Clinton Family Worship Center,” asserted Massey. “Many of those who carried the torch are actual survivors themselves.”
The Old Lightnin’ Rod Car Club, corporate sponsors of the Relay, was the group’s escort during the walk. James Faircloth drove his vintage Chevy pickup to lead to procession with several cars following the crowd of walkers. The torch was displayed in view of all survivors during the dinner held after the torch’s arrival at the church.
The Torch Walk started at 2 p.m. and took a little over an hour to complete. It was inspiring to those in attendance to see the stamina some of the survivors exhibited as they walked the entire distance to the church.
Beginning around 4:30 p.m., survivors were invited to place their hand prints on a banner to be displayed at the annual Relay event. Volunteers eagerly painted the survivor’s gloved hands with either pink or purple paint and then the survivors placed their hand prints on the sheet. Each survivor signed their name and put down the number of years they have been dealing with cancer and surviving.
After the hand prints were completed, the honorees entered the Clinton Worship Center Fellowship Hall for the Survivors Dinner. According to dinner chairwoman Rhonda Lockamy, the event was almost totally paid for with donations this year. Lockamy expressed her gratitude to those who donated the chicken, vegetables, strawberries and door prizes, making the event even more special to the survivors.
This year’s sponsors were: Clinton Family Worship Center, Serenity Baptist Church, House of Raeford, Burch Farms, Cottle Strawberry Farm and Hugh Caison.
The theme was “Celebrate More Birthdays,” to coincide with the American Cancer Society’s. Lockamy stated that around 150 people attended the Survivors Dinner. Abby Driver and Jimmy Driver sang a few songs for entertainment and Ferrell Carter was the guest speaker for the event.
“Looking at all the survivors’ faces and the excitement of being with us celebrating another year is a blessing to me. It is the best part of Relay. Knowing the money we raise is helping someone have another birthday; knowing I can be a part of something so special, and make it memorable for those that have been through a trial in their life, is truly a great feeling, expressed Lockamy.
Comments such as, “We appreciate this event so much. It means so much to us and all that we have gone through and continue to face each day, and thank you and thank you for caring so much,” were echoed by nearly every survivor in the room.
“I love being a part of the Survivors Dinner,” asserted Massey. “Talking to all the survivors while painting their hands is the best part. It is a blessing to see each survivor each year, hear their story and watch their face as they add another year of being a survivor on the hand print sheet. The sheet is displayed at the event for all to see. Anyone that did not get to join us will have the opportunity to paint their hand at the event. Please stop by the big tent prior to the opening ceremony,” shared the Relay co-chairwoman.
April Hicks, Relay co-chairwoman, stated that she had a special place for the Survivors Dinner in her heart as well.
“My heart is for the survivors. They are the reason why I Relay. We raise money to help people be able to have another birthday. I love being a part of the dinner. It gives me great joy giving back to them,” remarked Hicks.
Relay 2102 is slated for June 1 and 2 at Dark Horse Stadium. Organizers are hoping the crowds will be back in great numbers this year and they will go over their goal of $230,000.
In addition to the various team fundraising activities, The Kids Walk t-shirt voting will be going on Tuesday, April 24, from 5-7 p.m., at the Small House. Come vote for your favorite. The Sampson County Relay for Life needs everyone’s support to help fight the battle over cancer, organizers stressed.
The torch will complete its trek during the opening ceremonies at the stadium on Friday night, June 1.