Hundreds surf to ‘wipe out cancer’ at Relay

Published 11:02 pm Friday, May 18, 2012

Survivors march to the applause of others during the survivors’ lap at Relay for Life on Friday evening. The all-night event continued through Saturday morning at Bennett’s Creek Park.

Hundreds of people gathered at Bennett’s Creek Park on Friday night for an all-night beach party to “wipe out cancer.”

The 2012 Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life began at 6 p.m. Friday and lasted until 6 a.m. Saturday. The fundraising event for the American Cancer Society drew people of all ages and races, from all types of organizations, all working toward the common goal of beating cancer.

It began with the traditional survivors’ lap, when cancer survivors make the lap around the track with everybody else lining the course to cheer them on. On the second lap, the survivors were joined by their caregivers.

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After that, the party started. But nobody forgot the real reason for the event.

“I’m here so my daughter won’t have to go through the things that people are going through right now,” said Kristi Molter, who was the captain of the Power Play team. “We want it to end.”

Many people wore T-shirts or buttons with pictures or names of their family members who have died from cancer. Some people wore survivor or caregiver sashes. Some even had on two of the three.

During the survivor lap, married couples and parents and children walked hand-in-hand, both wearing survivor sashes.

“We don’t want other families to have to go through what we did,” said Lucille Spivey, whose husband and father have both died of cancer. “Everybody needs to pray for a cure. There’s a lot of people suffering out there.”

Desiree Haggerty started a team because her best friend’s father died of colon cancer.

“Just seeing what she went through, I wanted to come out and help find a cure,” she said.

One team had three of the youngest team captains in the event. Morgan Phelps, Brooke Wharam and Lauren Hardee joined up to lead a team after Brooke’s mother died of cancer earlier this year. Morgan’s father has been fighting cancer also, and Lauren’s best friend’s father died of cancer last year.

In honor of Brooke’s mother, Donna Wharam, a separate “Team Donna” also formed. The two related teams spent the first part of the night playing cornhole.

“We have 98 people on our team, so we needed to come up with something to keep 98 people entertained,” Morgan said.

Belinda Steede, a breast cancer survivor, walked on the team with her church, East End Baptist. She said Relay is a good means of support, which is important for anyone fighting cancer.

“I had a lot of support and a lot of help,” she said.

Steede had just turned 50 in 2007 when the doctor diagnosed a lump she found under her arm as cancer.

“What a way to celebrate, right?” she said.

But she buckled down, depended on laughter and her faith to see her through and fought the disease. She has now been a survivor for four and a half years.

“I knew I wasn’t the first person with breast cancer, nor was I going to be the last,” she said.

Certainly, people have been diagnosed with cancer since then. But it is the hope of everyone at Relay that they are among the last.