Though scaled-down in terms of participation, the Relay for Life effort in Sampson County has still raised $80,000 this year, with a month still to go before the final bank night for the annual fundraising.
“We’re up to $80,000, and money is still coming in,” said Michelle Parker, a coordinator of the event this year. “People are still raising money. We are extremely pleased with Relay this year. We just want to give a big thank you to everybody, every single person who helped out with this event. Whatever they did, big or small — being on a team, donating or volunteering — we appreciate them.”
A final bank night is set for July 10.
At Sampson’s Relay event last week, Gridiron Steppers were recognized as the top rookie team at Sampson’s 2019 event, held June 1, while Star Communications was honored for having the best decorated campsite and received the Team Spirit Award.
The annual effort hit a snag in mid-March with the resignation of Sampson’s American Cancer Society (ACS) representative, who serves as chairperson for the event. Parker along with Aundria Grady, Carolyn Faircloth and Rhonda Lockamy, spearheaded the effort to pull the event together with help from Morgan Sills, who stepped in as Sampson’s ACS liaison.
“It was small, but it was actually one of my favorites,” said Parker. “We hope to have a bigger crowd next year.”
Parker has been involved in Relay since its inception in Sampson County back in 1996. She knows the event is a fraction of what it was in its heyday over a decade ago, but the goal is always the same: celebrating cancer survival, supporting survivors and gathering in hope and remembrance to aid the search for a cure.
Everyone has their own reason for relaying, Parker noted. She echoed the sentiment of cancer survivor Terri Byrd, who said she relays for her children so maybe they won’t have to do the same.
“Attendance has gone down and the team number has gone down, but that’s not just in Sampson County — that’s everywhere,” said Parker, who says she relays for the survivors and those passionate about the cause. Numbers don’t matter.
The first Sampson County Relay for Life was held June 1, 1996 and the county raised $12,000. The local event peaked in 2006 when more than $400,000 was raised for the cause. Over the years, more than $3 million has been raised as part of the Sampson event alone. In recent years, the event has waned, but the spirit is still very much intact.
This year, were 15 teams who raised money for Relay, for which 27 torches and 581 luminaries were also purchased toward the cause. The ACS set Sampson’s goal at $125,000 for this year. Last year, there was more than $90,000 raised. While this year’s goal may not be reached, Parker said this was perhaps her favorite year to date. The event had a more intimate feel, and a sizable portion was still able to be raised thanks to the community.
“I think we’re all very proud of our Relay this year,” she stated. “There’s nothing we can do to make people go out there and there’s nothing we can do to make people participate. But the ones who do go out there, or donate, we thank them so much. A lot of people in our community dropped off, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.”