• 45°

On the march

Suffolk fought back against the terrible disease called cancer on Friday evening and into the night, and planned to greet Saturday morning with new hope and strength to persevere.

“Suffolk is doing something to fight back against this disease,” Relay for Life chairman Ray Bennett said during opening ceremonies for the annual fundraising event Friday. Money raised at the event and in the months leading up to it goes to the American Cancer Society for cancer research.

After opening ceremonies, a crowd of about 100 cancer survivors took the first lap at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s football field, marching to the applause and admiration of their friends and neighbors lining the track. They were joined in the second lap by their caregivers.

“We came out to support,” said James Arnot, a cancer survivor and father of 10-year-old Madison, also a survivor. “We need new people to support the cause.”

Survivor Patricia Moore walked the track in memory of her mother, who died of bone cancer, and also in honor of her own fight. The Relay brings up difficult memories, she said, but she also knows each step she takes means the world is closer to finding a cure.

“Too many innocent people are dying of cancer,” Moore said. “It’s sweet-bitter.”

Bennett estimated the crowd was about 1,000 strong at the beginning of the Relay. Cancer survivors on the field ranged in age from 8 to 80, he added.

“Look at the people walking the track that survived,” Bennett said. “They still need research so it doesn’t come back.”

The first few hours of the Relay also featured a recognition of the 74 teams and team captains, entertainment by local bands and clogging groups and a luminaria ceremony. Attendees purchased hundreds of luminarias in honor of survivors and in memory of those who lost their fight to cancer. The luminaria money also is used by the American Cancer Society for research, education and support services.

“This is for the cause,” said Bennett, whose father is a cancer survivor and who lost his mother-in-law to cancer the night before last year’s Relay. “It’s all to help raise the money.”