Relay leaders set new goals

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It was cold and wet Tuesday night as car after car made its way through the Celebrations Clubhouse parking lot.

Bundled under coats and jackets, people rushed to the clubhouse’s door only to be greeted by a completely different scene inside.

Dozens of candles burned on brightly decorated purple and white tables, with people laughing and joking, talking and reminiscing throughout the room.

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Giant American Cancer Society posters and Relay for Life paraphernalia hung on the walls and served as the backdrop for the event that night.

It was the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life Kick-Off Celebration, a night to get the volunteers and the community excited about this year’s Relay for Life.

“It gets everyone excited for the year to start,” said Cristina Duncan, community manager for the ACS. “People are always engaged because it’s a cause that’s near and dear to their hearts. We don’t have to motivate them ourselves – their family and friends do. So, this kick-off really motivates people to get started with their fundraising.”

Relay for Life is a program of the American Cancer Society through which participants raise money for cancer research and additional ACS programming throughout a 24-hour period of walking, fun activities and celebrating cancer survivors.

Last year, participants in the city of Suffolk raised more than $212,000 through Relay for Life. This year, the goal is at $220,000.

Even given the current economic times facing the country, Duncan and this year’s Relay for Life Chairman Ray Bennett, said they think the goal is reachable.

“It’s very realistic,” Duncan said. “Suffolk is growing, and there are lots of businesses and organizations we haven’t tapped into.”

“I think we’re going to be fine,” Bennett said. “Even with the economy like it is, (cancer) is a battle and we have to keep fighting it. My theory is, every dollar counts.”

Duncan said that increasing the number of teams signing up to participate will help the ACS reach its local goals.

“This year we’re asking more people to do some (instead of) some people to do more,” she said, “because cancer doesn’t sleep in a bad economy.”

Throughout the night, guests at the dinner were shown highlights from previous Relays in the city. They also received information on programs made possible by the money raised through Relay and listened as Nicole Digby, the owner/operator of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant on North Main Street, was named this year’s honorary chairman.

Guests were also told of this year’s fundraising goal, and they were given a pretty big incentive to help meet it.

Last year, Relay for Life Co-Chair Jeanne Banks dyed her hair purple when the city met its fundraising goal – so this year Bennett had to raise the ante.

“Well, Jeanne painted her hair purple last year,” Bennett said. “So, I told her, ‘I’ll top you; I’m going to jump out of a plane in a purple suit if we make it.’”

Let the fundraising begin.

For more information on this year’s Relay, visit