New venue, same mission

Published 10:18 pm Saturday, February 5, 2011

Survivors take a lap around the track at the beginning of last year’s Relay for Life at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. The Relay has outgrown the school’s track and will be held at Bennett’s Creek Park this year.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories leading up to the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life, to be held May 13-14.

The American Cancer Society’s Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life may be heading north, but its mission still is in the heart of Suffolk — creating a world with more birthdays.

In fact, that’s the theme of this year’s event, which will be held May 13-14 at Bennett’s Creek Park.

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The event previously has been held at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, but the Relay is being forced to move because of a good problem — growth.

“The good news is, we have outgrown NSA,” said Anne Barclay, community manager for Suffolk and Isle of Wight. “All of the campsites were filled up last year, and we really wanted to have more activity, more children’s activities and more teens’ activities.”

The Relay committee also had received numerous requests to have an event in North Suffolk, Barclay said. As an added bonus, the new skate park at Bennett’s Creek Park is on schedule to be completed by the event — a feature that may draw more young people to the Relay.

“I’m really excited about that,” Barclay said. “We do want to get more teens involved.”

The Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, which funds cancer research and numerous support programs for survivors, caretakers and family members of those who have lost their battle of cancer.

The Suffolk event got its start 30 years ago, before the American Cancer Society’s involvement. Community members would rock all night long in rocking chairs to raise money for cancer research.

This will be the 15th year of the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay with the American Cancer Society.

In the months leading up to the Relay, participants form teams and participate in their own fundraisers to gather money. The night of the Relay, teams camp out at the site and walk all night — a symbolic reminder that cancer never sleeps.

“It’s not just about raising money for me,” said Barclay, a former patient navigator at Sentara Obici Hospital. “I worked one on one with cancer patients.”

Barclay hopes to draw in more support by educating volunteers on where the money goes — right into the local community.

“It’s so much easier to ask for money when it helps right here in Suffolk,” she said.

Besides the new location this year, the event also will feature new entertainment (local band High School Rejects), more teams (the school system is allowing individual schools to form teams this year) and hopefully more churches and African-American involvement, Barclay said.

In addition, more children’s activities will be available the night of the event, as well as health screenings, which are new this year.

“Our them this year is creating a world with more birthdays,” Barclay said. “That is one of our new value propositions.”

Teams are now registering for the Relay. For more information about the event, contact Anne Barclay at or 493-7956.