Youthful energy

Published 8:37 pm Saturday, March 26, 2011

Morgan Phelps and her father, Darryl, are part of Morgan’s Relay for Life team. She was inspired by her father’s current fight against cancer.

Two area teens will captain Relay teams

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

A long-term community service project for Joshua Glaser-Wirt will finally be realized in May, when the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event in Suffolk takes place.

As for Morgan Phelps, she plans to be at Bennett’s Creek Park the entire night to help raise money for the fight against cancer.

Joshua Glaser-Wirt stands with his father, whose battle against skin cancer served as part of the inspiration for his organizing a team to walk in the Relay for Life. The team will be Joshua’s mitzvah project.

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Joshua, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, and Morgan, a 15-year-old sophomore at Western Branch High School, are two of the youngest participants in the upcoming Relay. But they’re not just participating — they are team captains.

For both young people, the fight against cancer hits especially close to home. Both of their fathers currently are battling cancer.

“In September of last year, my father was diagnosed with cancer,” Morgan said. “It really hit me hard, because I am extremely close to my dad. I decided that if there was one thing I could do to make a difference, if another family doesn’t have to go through what my family went through, I would do it.”

Since deciding to participate, Morgan has conducted a flurry of fundraising that has catapulted her to the current No. 2 spot among all this year’s participants. She wrote letters to her family and friends, placed a donation cylinder at the hair salon where she works and enlisted her mother, a dental hygienist, to talk to patients while she’s got their attention.

“My mother’s actually been a great help, and I don’t think I’d be able to do it without her,” Morgan said.

Her two older brothers, ages 21 and 24, also are helping.

“They’re both really busy, but they’re helping me as much as they can,” Morgan said.

Morgan has Relayed before, but this time she plans to stay all night.

“I do plan on being there and being awake the whole time,” she said.

For Joshua, his Relay team started out as a mitzvah project. While most Jewish boys his age have been cleaning elderly neighbors’ yards or doing other small projects, he decided he wanted to go bigger.

“I want to do something that is really a mitzvah,” Joshua’s mother, Jonna Glaser, recalled him saying. “He really tries to live what the teachings are of our faith. At 12 years old, he gets it.”

Joshua’s team, the “Skinboarders,” plans to zoom around the Relay track on skateboards. Joshua’s father is fighting skin cancer.

“It made me feel a lot better knowing that I’m helping other people that have cancer,” Joshua said. “It has to do with helping other people who have cancer and helping them have the chance to live their lives to the fullest.”

Joshua’s fundraising has included putting Relay for Life jars in his grandmother’s store, in his father’s office and at his church. He’s also holding a bake sale. His mother said once he decided he was doing Relay for his project, there was no stopping him.

“He got on the computer, he signed himself up, he wrote the letter, he took the initiative,” she said.

Besides his father, Joshua has had a grandmother, step-grandmother and two uncles suffer from cancer.

“I tell them the reason I’m doing Relay for Life is that people in my family have been dying,” Joshua said, explaining how he has convinced his friends to join his team. “I tell them that I just help people who are in need. I just try and help the best I can.”

Suffolk’s Relay for Life will be held May 13-14 at Bennett’s Creek Park. For more information on how to participate or contribute, visit