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Relay for Life kickoff today

Jeanne Banks wants to add a little color n purple, to be precise – to her life.

“We are going to dye our hair purple,” said Banks, who is chairing the local American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life this year. “Several of us are going to do it as soon as we reach our goal.”

The organization is kicking off its 2006 fundraising campaign this morning with a breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center. More than 75 volunteers are expected to being on hand at the event, where cancer survivor Alice Wichman will speak.

Banks is hoping the one hundred walkers expected to compete in the 24-hour Relay for Life Walk-a-thon, which will be held May 19-20 at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, will raise $235,000.

Participants who don’t want to walk can rock, Banks added. Suffolk is one of the few cities that still has the Rockin’ Relay for Life, in which participants pass the hours in a rocking chair.

Last year, Relay for Life participants raised $220,396, she added.

“I think we can make it,” Banks said. “So many walkers are motivated … because someone in their lives has been touched by cancer.”

Donna Eby, whose daughter, Mona Driver, died of bone marrow cancer eight years ago, agreed. Driver also chaired one of the first Relay walk-a-thons in Suffolk.

“It’s very personal for me,” she said.

“If we keep raising money to continue research, we will find a cure.

“That means a lot of the families will be spared the loss that we suffered.”

The American Cancer Society’s successful research is evident just by the growing number of cancer survivors who participate in the walk-a-thon each year.

“We are making progress,” Eby said. “More and more people are surviving cancer today.”