“The American Cancer Society Relay For Life of the Tri-Cities is to celebrate people who have been touched by cancer, remember loved ones lost, and take action for lifesaving change,” said Holly Booker, who organizes the local event. “This is the first time in years that Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City Relay For Life participants are coming together for one huge event in the fight against cancer. “
The 30 teams signed up for the event have already raised more than $22,000 leading up to the actual relay on June 22. On the day of the relay, teams will have tents set up with additional fundraising activities as well as food items for sale. Those proceeds will also add to the pot of money that helps patients in the Tri-Cities with medications and transportation to doctor’s appointments or treatments.
Rebekah Hodges is a first-time Relay For Life team leader. She didn’t know much about the event until she met a local cancer survivor, Suzanne Hunsinger, who was helping organize a prom for a 13-year-old girl — a friend of Hodges’ daughter — who was diagnosed last summer with an aggressive brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas, or DIPG.
“It’s a tumor that attaches itself to the brain stem, and the success rate is very minimal,” Hodges said. “Typically, once you’re diagnosed, you have nine to 36 months to live. She was diagnosed a year ago, and she’s already made it a year, which is incredible.”
“Suzanne said I should do a Relay team,” Hodges said. She looked at what was necessary to form a team and launched head-first into the process. Hodges’ team is in honor of that 13-year-old — Alidiah Simpson — who is a middle school friend of her daughter’s.
The kids helped with Hodges’ fundraising efforts by selling Relay For Life T-shirts and $5 luminary bags. Simpson and her friends will have a party the week before the Relay to decorate the bags.
The luminary bags are sold “in memory” of someone who died from cancer or “in honor” of a cancer survivor or someone undergoing treatment. The bags have sand and a tea light in them and are lit after dark for the luminary ceremony. With each bag representing a person, the ceremony can be a somber part of the Relay.
Hodges said she’s had extraordinary help from local businesses that donated to her efforts, including $500 from Texas Roadhouse and $1,500 from a friend who has a Facebook-based business called Pretty As A Peach Boutique.
“I’ve been surprised by the generosity of people to donate on complete short notice,” Hodges said. And while the large donations are exciting, “heck, I think a dollar is great,” she said.
At the Relay for Life event on June 22, each team will have its own tent where members will host an activity and sell food items. Hodges’ team will have a Do-It-Yourself slime station and sell “walking tacos,” Hodges said. All of that money also goes to the local charity to help local cancer patients.
“Cancer seems more and more common than it ever has been. It makes me feel really good that the money stays here. It’s devastating to know there is no cure, so to have money going to research or having help with transportation or care taking is wonderful,” Hodges said.
Some of the pre-Relay For Life fundraisers going on this month include:
- June 1-30 — Ultimate Shine 3-minute Car Wash will donate 30 percent of proceeds if you use the code 122 when you purchase a car wash. The offer is good at all nine Tri-Cities locations.
- June 9 — A fundraiser workout to prepare for the Relentless Together Challenge at iTrain Fitness, located at 103 L P Auer Road, Johnson City. The Relentless Together Challenge, similar to a Spartan Race where participants navigate through various obstacles, will be held later this year. The workout on Saturday is a $5 donation event for Relay For Life.
- Luminary bags are being sold for $5 each. Go online to http://relayforlife.org/tricitiestn for more information.
- Flamingo Flocking — this fundraiser shows up in your yard as a group of flamingos. They will leave your lawn in two to four days, but you can shoo them away sooner with a $50 donation to the American Cancer Society. You can also find out who flocked you for an additional $20. For more information about this event, contact Jacque Lowe at 791-4410 or email her at email@example.com.
The Relay For Life event will be June 22, 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Founders Park in Johnson City. The event will open with a Survivor/Caregiver Walk, there will be musical entertainment, cornhole competition, cake walk and a wing eating contest. There will also be a Name That Tune competition prior to the 10 p.m. luminary lighting and closing ceremony.