No place like hope

Published 10:19 pm Friday, January 23, 2015

Relay For Life is held every May at Bennetts Creek Park. The survivors' lap, shown here, is an emotional show of victory over the dreaded disease of cancer.

Relay For Life is held every May at Bennetts Creek Park. The survivors’ lap, shown here, is an emotional show of victory over the dreaded disease of cancer.

Suffolk’s Relay For Life strolls down the yellow brick road into 2015 with some major changes planned, but the event still will be the Relay folks know and love.

The event still will raise money for the American Cancer Society, honor survivors and caregivers, memorialize those who have lost their battle with cancer and, despite the serious cause, promises a lot of fun for its participants. This year’s theme evokes “The Wizard of Oz” with a play on words: “There’s no place like hope.”

And hope is the biggest thing that Relay offers: a chance to raise money for research for better treatments, more effective prevention and eventually a cure.

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Relay offers hope for people like Lauren McGhee, one of last year’s chairs, who lost both of her parents to cancer, a month apart, when she was only 13 years old.

“They are the reason that I relay, because they’re no longer here to fight this battle,” she said.

While the hope it offers is staying the same, there are a couple of major changes to the Relay this year. For starters, the 12-hour, overnight event begins on Saturday, May 16, rather than on a Friday.

Chelsea Peoples with Relay For Life hopes more people will be willing to participate as a result of the new schedule, because they don’t have to rush to the event from work.

This year’s relay will begin at 4 p.m. and last until 4 a.m. Previous events have begun a little later in the afternoon and ended later in the morning.

And since the event is set to end on a Sunday, a special religious service will take place near the end of the relay for those people who want to participate but might not be able to make it to their regular church services after staying up all night.

Another change this year is that registration is free, although teams still have fundraising goals.

“They can come out and support Relay For Life, even if they don’t have a team signed up,” Peoples said.

Other familiar components of the relay, however, will stay the same. It still will begin with a survivor’s lap and caregiver’s lap, followed by a survivor’s reception, and it will be held at Bennett’s Creek Park, 3000 Bennetts Creek Park Road, which has been its venue since 2011.

The luminaria ceremony will be held around 9 p.m., and the Ms. Relay pageant — featuring men only — will take place around midnight.

Team meetings will be held the first Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at King’s Fork High School. The exception is April, when the meeting has been moved to the second Monday so as not to be the day after Easter.

For more information or to sign up for the event, visit