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Ready, Set, Relay!

By Sherrie Norris (

Article Published: Jun. 16, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Ready, Set, Relay!

Watauga County Relay For Life returns for its 17th year on Friday at the new Watauga High School.
File photos

Relay for Life in Watauga County is not just another fundraiser for a good cause. It's a celebration of life that brings the community together in numerous ways with many individuals, families and businesses involved in its ongoing success.

The 17th annual Watauga County Relay For Life officially kicks off on Friday afternoon at the new Watauga County High School in Boone, where hundreds of survivors, family members and friends are expected to gather for an event that not only touches lives, but also changes lives.

Kathy Idol, 2011 event chairwoman, has been hard at work since she took over the reigns from Sharon Trivette and Glenda Hodges, who for more than 12 years led the local relay and brought it to record-breaking heights in the national spotlight: It ranked in the Top Ten Relays in the U.S. for the past 12 years and claimed 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.

In her first year of leadership with her husband, Steve Idol, as her "right-hand man," and "a wonderful committee," at her side, Idol steps up from her church team to lead the pack. She anticipates keeping the tradition of success alive, despite fewer teams and corporate sponsors this year.

"Even last year, in the middle of very difficult economic times, Watauga Relay was fourth in the nation in our population group," she said. "A cure for cancer is something that everybody wants, and we are all working hard for it."

Since its beginning in 1995, Watauga Relay has raised more than $3.6 million in the fight against cancer, the majority of which has been used for research, with generous amounts returned to the area for patient services. Last year, more than $189,000 was raised in Watauga County in addition to $43,000 brought in from the relay at Appalachian State University.

"We are very excited about our new location this year," Idol said. She said the location offers more space for vendors and entertainment, including inflatables for the kids, and allows organizers to set up tents and camp on the field.

"The high school staff has been very gracious to us and are working hard to accommodate our needs," she said.

The 2011 event got a jump-start with a donation of $27,020 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," Idol 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 survivor's 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," she says.

Relay For Life takes place in 20 countries, with 5,146 events in the U.S. and $3.86 billion raised since 1985, making it the single largest community fundraising event in the world, according to the Watauga County Relay For Life 2010 final report.

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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