• 45°

Relay marks community effort

An event with humble beginnings, the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life began in 1981 as the Suffolk Rock-a-thon with 27 participants who rocked through the night at the Brandon House Furniture Store.

Now 29 years later, the event has escalated to include hundreds of participants, a small army of volunteers and a year’s worth of hard work.

“It takes a joint effort of volunteers, committee members and the generosity of local businesses to make it a success,” said Leah Powell, who is the Relay’s head of logistics. “It’s a great bunch of people who work. Everyone pitches in. We’re like family.”

Powell equates the event to a mini-festival, complete with tents, stages, electricity, sound equipment, portable toilets, recycling, trash disposal, lighting, food, games and campsites.

Volunteers and committee members are in charge of putting together the event from top to bottom, but they receive help from many outside sources, as well.

“All the trash detail is being done by the City of Suffolk, TFC is taking care of the recycling, Spivey Rentals is donating the portable toilets, CR Services is giving us radios, Ricky and Roy’s Catering is giving us food for the entertainers, all the entertainers are donating their time, Holland’s Produce is providing lunch for volunteers tomorrow and Triple T has been generous enough to provide us with several jump houses,” Powell said. “When I say this is a community effort, I mean it is a community effort.”

Every penny the Relay committee has to spend on services is one less penny that can go toward cancer research.

With fewer corporate sponsors this year due to the economy, Powell said it has meant a lot that so many in the community have offered their services.

“Without their help, this wouldn’t be possible,” Powell said.

While corporate sponsors may be down, the individual participant effort is up.

“I’ve been doing logistics for the past four years, and this is by far the year with the most growth,” Powell said. “We only have two campsites left. This is the first year we’ve had that many teams. We’ve grown 20 teams this year. That is incredible.”

While Powell and the other committee chair members don’t expect to be getting much sleep, the work is worth the reward.

“I can’t describe the feeling you get when you’ve busted to put something like this together and see it all come together,” Powell said. “I’ve had people in my life who’ve been touched by cancer. If this is the one thing I can do to raise money to find a cure, then that is exactly what I’ll do.”

The opening ceremony for the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life begins at 6:30 p.m. at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. For more details on the Relay, refer to page B1.