Ready to relay

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

Break out the walking shoes; it’s time to use them for a good cause.

Friday night and Saturday morning, the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life will be taking place at Nansemond Suffolk Academy.

“There are so many good things going on,” said Jeanne Banks, co-chairman for Suffolk’s Relay for Life. “It’s a wonderful evening to be in Suffolk, and it’s a good opportunity to support a cause that touches so many of us.”

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Relay for Life is a program of the American Cancer Society through which participants raise money for cancer research and additional ACS programming during a 12-hour period of walking, fun activities and celebrating cancer survivors.

This year, the festivities will kick off at 6 p.m. with the annual Survivor’s Walk, which has cancer survivors walking the first laps in honor of their fight against cancer.

“You can look forward to an absolutely thrilling opening ceremony,” Banks said. “We will have some guest speakers, we will have our honorary chair, Nicole Digby, speak. We will have live music. We will have doves to be released in honor of our participants. It will be most impressive.”

Following the opening ceremonies, there will be several activities for the entire family to enjoy throughout the night. Musical groups Island Boy, 32 South and the James River Jazz Band will all take the stage Friday night, and there will be a special performance from the award-winning Peanut City Cloggers. Additionally, there will be an encore performance from the “Sister Act” that graced the stage at the 2008 Womanless Beauty Pageant.

“By popular demand, they are back,” Banks said. “It is too good. They ought to go on the road. That will be fun.”

This year’s Relay also will retain the classic activities that have made it a staple in the community every year. Suffolk has a unique place in the American Cancer Society’s Relay effort. Suffolk is the only city in the country that still has a rocking chair marathon for Relay for Life, and that is why it is called the Rockin’ Relay for Life.

In fact, the tradition goes back more than two decades, when the first “rock-a-thon” was held at Brandon House furniture. This year, a tent will be set up for those who will be manning the rocking chairs throughout the night.

Last year, the Suffolk Relay raised $212,359, with 59 teams and more than 650 participants.

This year, the Relay for Life steering committee is hoping to raise $220,000 from the event.

“When we reach that goal, our esteemed chairman Ray Bennett, has said he will jump out of an airplane,” Banks said. Bennett did say at Relay’s kickoff dinner that he would skydive in a purple suit if Suffolk raised its goal.

“And I know we all want to see that,” Banks joked. “Well, maybe except for his wife — but the rest of us will be cheering.”