This will be the relay’s 16th year in Kernersville, and co-director JoAnn Clifton is excited at the possibilities a partnership with the local YMCA offers the fundraiser to support the American Cancer Society in its search for a cure for cancer.
Clifton said she first began thinking about moving the relay location after several people asked her if she had ever considered moving the host site away from East Forsyth High School.
“Several people asked me if I had ever considered any other schools or any other places to hold the relay, but I really hadn’t,” said Clifton.
The question got her wondering if there was a more central location in the community that might reignite some of the relay’s spark. Last year, she noticed the absence of several local teams from different areas in the community during the actual relay night.
That’s when she approached new YMCA Executive Director Rosemary Suess to see if the YMCA might be interested in hosting this year’s relay.
“I thought, let’s really focus on community and try to get more people involved, and what better place than the YMCA. The Y is all about community and health,” said Clifton.
Suess has long been a Relay for Life participant and even walked in a 24-hour perpetual relay in Kings Mountain where she grew up. She also helped launch the beginning of a Relay within a Louisiana YMCA association two years ago.
“I had been involved with relays in Louisiana and Lincoln, Gaston and Cleveland counties in North Carolina,” said Suess. “Two years ago we were just getting started in Louisiana. We had 35 walkers the first year and hoped to have 45 the next year.”
Although she has taken part in relays in the past, Suess said it wasn’t until about two-and-a-half years ago that cancer reared its ugly head in her own family when both of her parents were diagnosed with different forms of the disease. Her mother has since beaten breast cancer, but her father is still fighting his cancer. She knows how important raising money for research is.
“It is a great effort, and the YMCA is very willing to be a part of that,” said Suess.
Clifton and Suess have been collaborating on ideas on how to make this year’s relay at its new venue one to remember. Clifton kicked off meetings for team captains in January and since then they have been meeting regularly at the YMCA; however, Clifton said anyone interested in forming a team is welcome to come to the meetings.
The next meeting will be held on Thursday, April 10, followed by meetings on May 1, 15 and 29 at 6:30 p.m.
“Anyone who is interested can come to the meeting,” said Clifton. “We’re in the planning stages so we’re always open to ideas.”
Clifton called planning for this year’s relay a ground zero of sorts.
“Everything we’ve ever done will be new and different to fit this location,” said Clifton. “I really want to create a tailgate atmosphere.”
The Kernersville Relay for Life will still feature the survivor dinner with indoor and outdoor space for dining. Organizers will ask, as in year’s past, that everyone bring canned food items to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank. While the relay is taking place, the canned items will be used to hold down the luminary bags honoring loved ones who have fought cancer. The silent luminary walk at dark will also still be held.
Clifton hopes to set up a children’s area with inflatables. There will also be a DJ and sound system with music playing. Both Clifton and Suess issued an all-call for survivors, asking those in the Kernersville community to invite someone they know who has or is battling cancer to the relay.
So far, about 10 teams have registered at the Kernersville Relay for Life online site, but Clifton wants at least 35 teams this year. Because Winston-Salem will be having a relay this year, its first in a while, Clifton said it’s more important than ever that new people and organizations get involved.
“It’s going to be fun and exciting,” said Clifton.
This year’s Relay for Life of Kernersville will be held Friday, June 6 beginning at 6 p.m. in the YMCA’s front parking lot facing West Mountain Street.
For more information, contact co-chairs, JoAnn and Berry Clifton, at (336) 918-3151 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To access the local relay’s website, search Kernersville, N.C. Relay for Life online and follow the links to the page. It can be accessed directly at http://relay.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY14SA?fr_id=61088&pg=entry.