Better weather for Relay

Published 5:20 pm Saturday, June 16, 2018

There was no inclement weather on Friday that was going to stop Suffolk’s Relay for Life on its makeup day. The sun was shining and there was just enough of a breeze to be comfortable.

Survivors, caregivers, family and friends gathered on Nansemond River High School’s football field to listen to the heartfelt and inspiring words of Jim Gudac, Relay for Life day of event lead, and Dana DeFreeuw, Relay for Life event lead.

“Cancer is a worthy opponent with a destructive appetite,” Gudac said. “But we have the advantage because of generous people like you. Together we can have the greatest impact to save lives.”

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Both DeFreeuw and Gudac spoke of the pain and heartache that cancer brings to people’s lives and the resiliency that hope can give survivors and those currently battling any kind of cancer.

“You are here because you feel compelled to make a difference. Survivors are living proof that we are making a difference. We should honor their crusade,” DeFreeuw said. “We should celebrate that we are doing something to provide hope.”

Tents lined the edge of the football field from all the teams participating, and they featured treats, games and other goodies for people attending to help raise money towards Suffolk Relay for Life’s $150,000 goal.

Plenty of the teams were in good spirits and wore shirts with team names plastered on the front in support of loved ones and friends.

Debbie Lauver was joined by her son and daughter at their tent making sure the goodies were packaged and the hot dogs were cooking. Her team, Deb’s Double D’s, wore pink in support of her surviving breast cancer.

“We have fun. There are great people with Relay for Life. There are a lot of survivors and support with fighting all of the cancers,” Lauver said.

Some of the teams made sure to have witty names like Lauver’s did. Cheryl Stephenson, a survivor of colon cancer, was joined by her team The Wise Cracks for Relay. Stephenson was diagnosed less than two years ago, and she has been in remission since August 2017. This is her first Relay for Life event.

“This is our first year, so I’m the newbie, but it’s great to get friends back together and spend time with them,” Stephenson said.

The community also played a role with Relay for Life. The Suffolk Police Department’s Honor Guard was in attendance for the National Anthem, and they escorted the survivors around for the first lap of the evening.

Along with the police department, Suffolk Fire and Rescue was seen walking around the track in support of the survivors.

The festivities continued after the survivor lap, and people were strolling around the track with family and friends celebrating being in remission, having successful treatment and, most importantly, celebrating each other.

Kim Boone and Sharry Allen have both been in remission from breast cancer for just about a year, and Relay for Life is a time for them to meet other survivors.

“The support is amazing, and it’s a confirmation that you’re not the only one going through this,” Allen said.

“We get the chance to meet other survivors and bring more awareness to every type of cancer,” Boone said.

In keeping with the carnival theme, Relay for Life had bounce houses, rock climbing and an assortment of carnival snacks.

As of Saturday afternoon, Suffolk Relay for Life had raised $87,979 of its goal, and fundraising will continue for several more months.