Get Ready to Relay

By Sherrie Norris (

Article Published: Jun. 14, 2012 | Modified: Jun. 20, 2012
Get Ready to Relay

The survivors’ lap is always an emotionally charged walk around the track that signals the official beginning of another Relay For Life.
Photos by Sherrie Norris

Relay For Life in Watauga County is not just another fundraiser for a good cause.

It’s a celebration of life that unites the community with numerous individuals, families and businesses involved in its ongoing success.

Following months of preparation and preliminary events leading up to the big day, the actual 18th annual Watauga County Relay For Life takes shape Friday afternoon at the Watauga County High School in Boone.

Hundreds of survivors, family members and supporters are expected to gather through the evening hours for the emotionally charged ceremony of laps, light and life, as participants in the signature event of the American Cancer Society.

Kathy Idol is returning for her second year as event chairwoman and hopes to see the momentum from the past return to Watauga County Relay For Life.

For several years, Watauga County gained attention in the national spotlight, ranking in the Top 10 Relays in the U.S. for 12 years and claiming the No. 1 spot for five consecutive years for the most money raised in its population group. Also, for five consecutive years, Watauga received the Power of Hope award in its No. 1 spot for survivor participation.

If this year’s strong start is any indication — with 385 participants, 42 teams and $125,000 raised (to date) — 2012 is going to be a successful year.

“Plus, this year,” Idol said,” all local schools have a team, which is great. ”

Idol and her committee members and team captains are working hard to keep the tradition of success alive, she said.

As the economy, in recent years, had a negative affect on nationwide fundraising, Relay For Life in Watauga experienced a decrease, too, as participation and, especially, corporate sponsorships declined. But, the future is looking brighter, Idol said.

“A cure for cancer is something that everybody wants, and we are all working hard for it.”

Since its beginning in 1995, the Watauga Relay has raised more than $3.8 million in the fight against cancer, with generous amounts returned to the area for patient services.

“Last year, $147,222 was raised in Watauga County in addition to $47,000 brought in from the Relay at Appalachian State University,” Idol said. “ASU raised more than $50,000 this year.”

The 2012 event got a jump-start with a donation of $18,164 from Tanger Outlets, Relay’s largest corporate sponsor, following its annual breast cancer awareness fundraiser in October.

“We couldn’t do what we do without Tanger and our other corporate sponsors,” Kathy said, noting that every dollar raised goes a long way in Relay’s effort. “Our success hinges on everyone involved — from every team member and captain to each committee member, sponsors and the community, in general, that comes out in force to show its support.”

Various and unique Relay for Life fundraisers are scheduled practically year-round, Idol said, adding that the luminaria offers one of the easiest ways anyone can support Relay — by honoring or remembering someone special who has battled cancer or continues to be affected by it.

“The luminaria ceremony is one of the most impressive parts of a Relay event, in addition to the survivors’ opening lap,” Idol said. “The glow of the luminaria (illuminated bags) lights the track with each one bearing the name of someone who has battled cancer. Some celebrate cancer survivors, while others help us honor and remember those gone too soon. All represent someone special who has been profoundly affected by cancer and the family and friends who continue to fight back in their honor.

“We hope that the community will come out to Watauga High School on Friday night and support our survivors, caregivers, teams and other volunteers in our fight against cancer. Relay is all about being a community that takes up the fight, so we are looking for a great turnout this year.”

Watauga High School is a great location for the celebration, she said, as it provides ample space for vendors and entertainment, including inflatables for the kids, in addition to field-space for team tents and camping.

“The high school staff has been very gracious to us and are always willing to accommodate our needs,” she said. “We can’t thank them enough.”

Each year, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the United States, along with additional communities in 20 other countries, gather to take part in this global phenomenon and raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer.

Research indicates that millions of Americans today are cancer survivors, and many others have avoided getting cancer, in part because of the work of the American Cancer Society.

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