Relay returns for 21st year

Published 5:32 pm Saturday, March 26, 2016

Participants in the 2015 Relay for Life take the first lap around the track to celebrate being cancer survivors. This year’s event will take place May 20-21.

Participants in the 2015 Relay for Life take the first lap around the track to celebrate being cancer survivors. This year’s event will take place May 20-21.

Less than two months remain until the 2016 Relay for Life of Suffolk.

Some changes are coming to the anti-cancer fundraiser this year, but plenty of stuff is staying the same, said Chelsea Peoples, Relay for Life community manager for the American Cancer Society.

“This year, the biggest change with Relay is the location,” Peoples said. “We decided as a committee it would be good to have it at a public school where we could get a little more participation.”

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The event will be held May 20-21 at Nansemond River High School, which also is a slightly more central location than Bennett’s Creek Park, where it has been held the past several years.

“We’re kind of bringing it back home and decided to go back to the Relay roots,” Peoples said, noting that Dr. Gordon Klatt, the founder of the Relay for Life event, held it on the track of a public school, albeit a university, in Tacoma, Wash.

“Hosting at a public school, specifically around the track setting, it’s something that’s unique to Relay nationwide,” Peoples said.

“The school’s on board and really excited to host us this year,” Peoples said, adding that the city is “still fully on board even though it’s not at a city park anymore.”

Two other big changes this year are the day — back to a Friday evening start after a short-lived Saturday experiment — and a survivor and caregiver reception two weeks prior to Relay, rather than during the event.

“We want to really focus and spoil our survivors and caregivers a little more prior to the event,” Peoples said.

The survivor and caregiver reception will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. May 11 at the Planters Club. Food, raffle prizes and a guest speaker from Sentara Obici Hospital, who will teach laughter therapy, will be available. Mason’s Grill and Smokehouse has agreed to donate the food, Peoples said.

Survivors and caregivers still are encouraged to join the Relay and participate in the traditional survivor’s lap for the opening. A survivors’ tent also will be set up at the event.

Most everything else about the event remains the same, with the luminaria ceremony highlighting the evening at 10 p.m.

The opening ceremony will be held at 6 p.m., with live entertainment leading up to the luminaria ceremony.

At midnight, everybody will take a lap in their pajamas. A scavenger hunt will take place during the wee hours, with a closing ceremony at 5:30 a.m.

Peoples said the event takes place overnight to represent a cancer patient’s fight.

“We relay into the night to represent that time when they’re going through treatments, and it’s cold and it’s dark and it’s scary,” she said. The morning light “represents the time they go into remission.”

“There’s so many things that cancer patients and survivors sacrifice when they’re going through the awful disease,” she said. “For one night a year, we’re going to tough it out.”

So far, 66 teams and 424 participants have raised $57,557. There is a goal of 100 teams.

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