Clogging for cure at Relay
Hundreds of bags bearing names of cancer victims provided a solemn tribute at Relay for Life on Friday, but most of the tears shed at Robbinsville High School durinng the event were tears of joy.
How can you cry when guitars are playing, cloggers are tapping, Granny is dancing, kids are playing games, people are winning delicious cakes, and adults are eating delicacies like Cherokee fry bread with chili, homemade BBQ, and hand-churned ice cream?
The 21st annual event led by Jimmie Holder and Connie Adams to remember those who succumbed to cancer, support those facing cancer, and raise funds for research was cleerly a celebration of life.
“I just enjoy it so much. Without the research and the education, my family members wouldn’t be survivors today,” said Carol Lawson, one of dozens of local survivors.
Less victims, more survivors is an underlying theme at Relay For the Life. That’s why fundraising is stressed – because fundraising pays for research.
“This is very special to me, something very needful for research. It’s touched my life in a major way (tears),” remarked Francine Jenkins, who lost both parents and her husband to cancer within 10 years.
In Graham County, it’s people who make Relay for Life extra special – people who volunteer, people who perform, people who pull out their wallets and dig into pursues to sponsor the event.
Gold sponsors included Adams Contracting Co., Santeetlah Baptist Church, United Community Bank.
Silver sponsors were: Beta Sigma Phi, Crisp and Crisp, Inc., Lovin Equipment and Sales, Inc., Phillips & Jordan, Inc., Robbinsville Lions Club, State Employee’s Credit Union, Stecoah Baptist Church.
Bronze sponsors were: Graham County Land Co., LLC, Herve Cody Contractor, New Hope Baptist Church, Panther Creek Baptist Church, Robbinsville Custom Molding, Robbinsville Pharmacy, Summitt Tree Division, Sweetgum Baptist Church, Tuskeegee Baptist Church.
The event also benefited from entertainers who had dancers boot scooting and cloggers clogging. Performers included Hannah Styles, Britthaven Bunch, Steve Jordan Band, Fontana Ramblers and Jones Brothers. Josh Jones also played Ashokan Farewell on violin during the lap walked in silence in memory of loved ones. John Shuler served as emcee.
Fittingly, several tunes, like I’ll Fly Away, and Yes, Jesus Loves Me, had a spiritual theme. As survivors shared their stories, it was clear that faith picks up where fundraising leaves off.
“It was a journey and God walked through it with me,” said Virginia Gibbs, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. “We felt confident that we would be okay with God walking with us.”
“When they told me I had breast cancer, I didn’t think I’d live through it. With the Lord’s help, I did,” said :Avada Queen, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
“Put your faith in God and he’ll see you through,” remarked Bobby Buchanan, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer last year.
“Accept what is. Have faith that everything will be okay. My family and my church family helped me so much. They were my support. I give God all the credit and praise for getting me through,” stated Nelda Nelms, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.
“God took care of mine. They found a mass in my liver and were able to remove it and about one half of my liver. In three months my liver had grown back and was
functioning normally,” remarked Debbie Crisp, whose been cancer-free for 10 years. “My advice is for people to give it to God and don’t take it back! Once you give your fear and the problem to God, trust that he will take care of it and stop worrying. I almost died on the operating table but the church prayed and my family prayed and with their help and support, God saw my through!”
Holder and Adams are still totaling funds received. Both are anxious to see if Graham County raised more than the $82,467.89 collected last year – $30,000 more than the goal and the second highest total in county history.
The importance of research was obvious as survivors discussed their journeys.
“I’m a nurse, and I went to nursing school and I can remember people who were taking chemo,” recalled Jennifer Wachacha. “They would be in the hospital sick, laying in a bed, lights off, with a pan in front of them, just throwing up, couldn’t do anything. When they told me I was going to have to do chemo, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to be one of those people laying in bed throwing up.’ But I never threw up, never got sick, I mean I had the normal symptoms. My hair came out, I lost my taste buds for a few days, but I never got the nausea, the stuff I saw people go through in the hospital. Research has come a long way. They’ve done so much research on stuff they can give you to keep you from being sick while you’re doing your chemo.”
The community’s support for Relay for Life was artistically expressed on banners created by teams. Team Carpenter’s banner was judged best overall, while Stecoach Township received the award for best theme and United Methodist Church won the award for best cancer awareness.