Relay for Life kicks off

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Mar 9, 2016 at 12:49 PM

The American Cancer Society is ready to paint Washington County purple — the color of hope, the color of all cancers, the color of all cancer patients and the color of the society’s signature fundraising event, Relay for Life.

In preparation for another year of lifesaving fundraising, the ACS launched its 2016 Relay for Life and Bark for Life events for Johnson City, Jonesborough and East Tennessee State University Tuesday with its annual Relay for LIfe Kickoff and Volunteer Awards breakfast at Doubletree Inn.

Jessica Poff, ACS community manager for Washington and Greene counties, said, if you or anyone you know has ever had cancer or been a caregiver for a cancer patient, if you are one of the 2.5-million people who have participated in the ongoing cancer prevention studies first launched in 1950s, or even if you simply enjoy eating in smoke-free restaurants, then you have been touched by the ACS.

That funding for 80 percent of the cancer research, patient services, prevention education, screenings and advocacy for cancer prevention funded by the ACS is raised by Relay for Life volunteers is important to everyone, Poff said, and everyone can particpate.

ETSU’s 2016 Relay for Life will be held from 2 p.m. April 15 to 2 a.m. April 16. Johnson City’s Relay will be held from 2-11 p.m. June 25. Relay for Life in Jonesborough’s downtown historic district is set for July 23. Bark for Life, Washington County’s canine cancer-fighting festival, is scheduled for Oct. 22.

As in all Relay for Life events held in communities in 24 countries around the globe, 90 percent of fun, fundraising activities conducted at the events will be led by volunteers.

In 2014 alone, Poff said, the Relay for Life events collectively raised more than $400 million for the fight against cancer.

Poff encouraged the corporate sponsors, volunteers, educators, health care providers and media representatives gathered for the kickoff breakfast to learn more about the impact of the ACS and to spread the word about the many varied opportunities to help. She called on those with on those with personal stories of what a difference that help makes to share their stories.

“Volunteers are the heart of the society and each event and service is ran completely by their passionate work. From driving patients to and from treatment, providing assistance at the office, making phone calls to newly diagnosed cancer patients, or organizing events, the society truly has the best of the best,” she said.

Kathy Thomason, an ACS Hero of Hope advocate and the guest speaker for Tuesday’s kickoff, said she first heard the words, “you have cancer,” 14 years ago when a small spot on her face was diagnosed as a basal cell carcinoma, which she was told was “the best kind of cancer you can have.’

She heard the words again six years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she has since heard them for her 94-year-old father-in-law, and for friends at her church, including one who was going through treatment and needed a wig.

A woman known to wear purple every day and to visit the ACS office in Johnson City almost as frequently, Thomason called the ACS for help with a wig for her friend. ”I had worked with Relay for 14 years ... but didn’t know they had a wig room,’’ she said.

”There was an ACS research grant to ETSU for skin cancer. The drug I received was developed by ACS grant programs. Mammography was developed by ACS grant programs. Look Good Feel Better (a free service for people in cancer treatment) was developed by ACS. And 80 percent of what ACS does is raised by Relay,’’ Thomason said.

”I believe in the ACS and what they do and the need for more research. We can save more lives.

“We’re not asking for a million dollars. If you give one dollar, your one dollar may be the one dollar we need to find a cure for cancer. ... Together we can do it. We are going to fight and eventually we will find a cure.”

More information about the local Relay for Events can be found at RelayForLife.org/Johnson CityTN and RelayForLife.org/JonesboroughTN. More information about Bark For Life can be found at BarkForLifeWashingtonCounty.org.

For more information about other opportunities and local events to help the ACS, including next month’s Battle of the Batters Cupcake Challenge and Murder Mystery Dinner Party, contact Poff at 423-975-0635 or [email protected]

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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