Organizers: Relay a success

Published 11:00 pm Monday, May 16, 2011

Luminaria bags line the track at the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life on Friday. The Relay will reach its goal once all fundraisers are completed and sponsorship money turned in, officials said Monday.

The week after Suffolk’s Rockin’ Relay for Life, organizers are assessing the first event at a new venue and looking forward to meeting their goal.

“It was an amazing event,” said Anne Barclay, community manager for the American Cancer Society. “It was completely successful.”

The Relay moved from former host Nansemond-Suffolk Academy this year to the more spacious Bennett’s Creek Park. Some participants initially were upset about the change, but it turned out well, Barclay said.

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“All the teams were happy,” she said. “They were coming up to us talking about how excited they were, and they’re already talking about their plans for next year.”

The total for fundraising now is $191,000, only about $10,000 short of the goal, Barclay said. Outstanding sponsorship money and post-event fundraisers are sure to bring in the remainder.

“We’ll definitely meet our goal,” Barclay said.

The money will stay in the community to assist with programs for cancer survivors, such as the “Look Good, Feel Better” program that provides makeovers for female patients; free wigs for patients; volunteer drivers to medical appointments; on-call dietitians; support groups; and more.

One concern that arose during the night of the event was parking, especially as those arriving around the beginning of the event had to sit in a long line of traffic on Bennetts Creek Park Road to gain access to the parking area.

“We’ll make sure we fix that for next year,” Barclay said. “Part of the parking issue was that there were so many people, which is a good problem to have.”

About 500 more participants were registered this year than last year, Barclay said.

Those participants included the largest team ever for Suffolk’s Relay, Team Darden. That team’s membership numbers got a boost in the last hours before Relay after its namesake, King’s Fork Middle School principal Talmadge Darden, died of cancer Thursday night.

Team Darden had 117 participants. St. Andrew Presbyterian Church came in second with 90 members.

Barclay added that the city of Suffolk had provided extraordinary assistance in preparing the park, helping with logistics and more.

“The city could not have been any more gracious,” Barclay said. “They were there at every turn.”

Overall, Barclay said, the feedback on the event was positive, and the Relay looks forward to being at Bennett’s Creek Park again next year.

“I just want to thank all of the volunteers, the city of Suffolk and the sponsors for making this year a success,” Barclay said. “We could not have done it without them.”