Finish the fight
WARRENTON — Courage and hope walked the track at the Warren County High School athletic field last night and will continue this morning.
Survivors, their families, caregivers and supporters gathered to celebrate the county’s 14th Relay for Life.
Survivors wore purple T-shirts with “Finish the Fight” on the front. On the back was the slogan: “I am Strength. I am Hope. I am a Survivor.”
During the opening ceremony, Shirley Bracey told her story.
“I’m a two-year phase two breast cancer survivor,” she said.
She described being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing surgery.
“My husband was my strong support, but God was my rock,” Bracey said. “He was the one that brought me back to Warren County. Today I am free of breast cancer.”
Warren Relay chairman Damon Neanover invited survivors to take the first lap around the field, led by the Warren County High School Air Force Junior ROTC color guard. Caregivers joined them on the second lap.
“We have created the world’s largest movement to defeat cancer,” he said.
Participants had their own — sometimes incredibly personal — reasons for being there.
Bernard Harris said he is a three-time survivor. He had surgery for skin cancer four years ago, three years ago and again one year ago.
“I’m going to live to see 90,” the 83-year-old said. “I might try to make 100.”
Some participants were inspired by their experience with cancer to form teams. Seventeen teams with 104 members participated by walking and continuing their fundraising efforts during the event.
Bonnie Munn was the top individual money-raiser with $1,816. She got involved with Relay after her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
“My husband is a cancer survivor,” she said. “He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998.”
Soon after, Munn started participating in Relay for Life.
“At first, I was on the Providence United Methodist Church team, and then I formed my own team,” she said.
Her Blossoms for a Cure team has raised $3,688.
The top team fundraiser with $5,441 is Zion United Methodist Church in Norlina.
“I got started the first year they had a Relay in Warren County,” team co-captain Jeanne Bolton said. “Someone showed me a video, and I just got hooked. I thought of all my friends and family who were affected by cancer. I went to my church, and we formed a team.”
Rosa’s Team, led by Rosa Marks, was set up under a tent to sell Mary Kay and Avon products. They had already raised $2,766 through events, such as a beauty contest. Marks said her team had five members.
“We’re a small team with a big heart,” she said.
Under tents set up around the track, teams representing schools and churches sold a variety of foods and trinkets to continue raising funds. Between laps, participants dined on steak sandwiches, candy, baked goods, fish sandwiches, barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, strawberry shortcake and more. A team from H&R Block sold home-baked cupcakes and other delicacies.
In addition to recorded music, the Little Praise Dancers, Golden Country and singer Steve Hyman entertained the crowd.
The total amount raised going into the weekend was $24,485.50 toward the goal of $60,000. The proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. Neanover said they have until the end of August to reach their goal.
Once darkness fell, luminaries were lighted to line the track as walkers continued through the night.
The event will continue this morning, with a closing ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m.
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