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Light Up Suffolk!

Suffolk is taking part in Virginia Unites! as luminaria bags across the commonwealth light up in support of those whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Relay for Life holds an event every May to fundraise for the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, this year it was postponed due to COVID-19. Now, a drive-through luminaria celebration for Light Up Suffolk! is scheduled for 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at East End Baptist Church, 1056 Portsmouth Blvd.

“We will have the bags lining the driving route through the parking lot,” said Melissa Matthews of the American Cancer Society. “We are encouraging people to decorate their cars, especially survivors. Normally, survivors walk the first lap so we can cheer for them. We’d like them to still be able to identify their cars and still cheer as they drive by.”

Each luminaria bag will be decorated in honor or in memory of someone currently fighting cancer, a cancer survivor or someone who lost their life to cancer.

“I am happy to see that we are able to do some type of celebration for Relay for Life and do so in a safe and socially distanced fashion,” Patricia Lynn Richards-Spruill, who is part of the executive team for the Suffolk Relay for Life. “I am very thankful to East End Baptist Church for offering their facility for the drive-through.”

The drive-through at East End is not the only opportunity to participate. Neighborhoods can also host their own luminaria celebrations. Hosts can volunteer in these neighborhoods to sell the luminaria, head up fundraising, and inform the neighborhood on when to light the night.

Fundraising is still a significant part of the night. According to Matthews, the American Cancer Society took a massive financial hit during the pandemic, like many other nonprofit organizations.

“Even though COVID-19 and the pandemic is here, the cure for cancer is not,” said Richards-Spruill. “We need to continue to push to raise as much money as possible for the cure. It is understandable that these are rough economic times, so for my team at church one of our best fundraisers has been through luminaria.”

Volunteers are also needed for the drive-through event at East End Baptist Church. The volunteers will be distancing themselves from one another and taking the proper safety measures.

To volunteer or receive more information, contact Melissa Matthews at 850-591-7226 or melissa.matthews@cancer.org.