Some things or causes will always be off-limits for me, as a journalist, to advocate for publicly — elections and supporting a specific person or party’s position, laws that are, well, sometimes stupid, governing policies that also can appear to be useless.
But this week, I stepped over that line of participation. As a tribute to a dear friend, I joined a Relay For Life team and created a fundraiser. I gave a base donation, pushed the plea for assistance out on Facebook but never expected anyone to take me up on it. We see requests all the time asking for a donation for this cause or that cause. It can be overwhelming. For one thing, how can you be assured the money you donate is used in a worthy manner.
With Relay For Life, an event of the American Cancer Society, there is a guarantee money donated will remain in the specific area where the donation occurred. In Johnson City, the Relay For Life of the Tri-Cities will be at Founders Park from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. It will be just one of hundreds of Relay events all across America. Cancer survivors, patients and friends and family of those people will gather for their biggest fundraiser to help cancer patients. I’ll be one of them. Cancer has dealt a glancing blow to my family — my father was treated for Stage 0 throat cancer, and I have an uncle going through melanoma treatments — and I have known numerous people who have or continue to battle cancer.
One, whom I have written about several times, is Suzanne Hunsinger. She is such an amazing woman who has been fighting cancer for a decade. Yes, for 10 years Suzanne has undergone treatment after treatment chasing the cancer that keeps bouncing around inside her body. Sure, there have been times of remission, but it just keeps coming back. I often wonder why bad things happen to good people.
Suzanne is one of the most down-to-earth people I know. She came from humble beginnings, growing up in Cash Hollow in Washington County. She became a hairdresser — and a darn good one in my opinion — and she pulled herself out of an unhappy marriage and found the love of her life, Todd. It was after they married that the cancer came. Suzanne knows how fortunate she is to have the love and support of so many people — her parents, sisters and other relatives and friends — as well as the ability to seek out the best treatment and never have to worry about getting to and from a doctor’s appointment.
So many cancer patients don’t have that same security, and that’s one of the reasons Suzanne puts so much effort into Relay For Life. That event helps so many people in many ways — gas cards for someone who transports the patient to and from doctor’s appointments, other patient support services, fund life-saving cancer research, prevention and education information, and detection and treatment programs.
It’s never too late to donate, it isn’t too late to participate on Friday, and it isn’t too late to join a team. It doesn’t have to be Suzanne’s team. Just pick a team on the Relay For Life website or show up and volunteer to help with setting up team tents. Volunteers are needed from 1-5 p.m. for set up Friday and the Relay will be 5-10 p.m. It ends with the lighting of luminary bags that can be purchased for $5 each. The bags will be decorated in memory of someone who died from cancer or in honor of a survivor.
T-shirts for the event will also be available for sale, and those proceeds also go to the Relay For Life fund. In addition to the Relay For Life of the Tri-Cities at Founders Park, the Relay For Life of Carter Carter will be held at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, located at 426 Highway 91 in Elizabethton.
Your $1, or however many you can spare, just might save a life. And one day, it might be your own or the life of someone you love.