June 23, 2004 – The local American Cancer Society chapter's 3rd annual Relay for Life starts at 4 p.m. Saturday and will continue until noon Sunday at the Charlotte Amalie High School athletic track.
In just three years, the 20-hour event has evolved into an island tradition. Speaking Wednesday on Raul Carrillo's "Afternoon Mix" show on WVWI Radio, cancer survivor Diane Parker and Barbara Petersen, event spokeswoman, described what's coming up this weekend.
The teams and their sponsors collaborate to honor local cancer survivors and their families, remember those who have lost the fight against the disease and raise funds for the local Cancer Society chapter's treatment and support programs.
Since the event goes on all night, plans are afoot to keep people hopping. Outrageous fashion shows, Karaoke and line dance contests are on tap, along with a midnight volleyball contest, a 2 a.m. tug of war, a 5 a.m. basketball shoot-out, 5 a.m. wake up aerobics and yoga and 6 a.m. sunrise services.
Parker, however, is serious about the cause. "We want people to know that cancer is not that terrible an ordeal; it's just something that comes along and has to be dealt with," she said. "It is a challenge to be overcome. It is important that people realize there is life after cancer."
At the 4 p.m. opening ceremony, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull will deliver the main address. Also offering remarks will be Carrillo, the event chair; Rodney E. Miller Sr., chief executive officer of Roy L. Schneider Hospital; and retired Police Capt.Vancito Gumbs, a cancer survivor.
The first lap around the track is traditionally walked by cancer survivors. Sponsored teams are to begin their treks at 4:45 p.m.
Carrillo said about 54 teams are expected to participate this year, up from 43 last year and 28 in 2002. They raised $80,000 in 2002 and $120,000 in 2003. This year, Petersen said, the goal is $150,000, and it's within reach.
Team captains are to meet Thursday at 5 p.m. at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. Petersen said people wanting to join in should come to the meeting to see if there are openings on the existing teams. Otherwise, general admission is $10, including a T-shirt for those not on teams.
In a special ceremony at 8:45 a.m. Sunday, cancer survivors will honor their caregivers. Parker said she will pay tribute to her husband.
Renny Roker will be master of ceremonies at the 9 p.m. Saturday luminary ceremony. Luminaries are small candles that can be purchased for $5 at the event to be placed around the track in memory of loved ones. All lighted, they glow in the darkness in a moving tribute to lives lost. Cancer survivor Akima Howard, 1989 V.I. Carnival Queen, will be the guest speaker.
There'll be lots of live music. On Saturday, the Praise Steel Orchestra will perform from 4:30 to 5 p.m., the Love City Leapers from 6 to 6:45 p.m, Nicky "Mighty Whitey" Russell from 7 to 8 p.m., Jo Jo Romero from 8 to 9 p.m. and the Phoenix Sounds Steel Orchestra from 10 to 11 p.m.
Events for children are planned, too, from 3 p.m. to midnight Saturday. A Kids' Corral will feature face painting, a scavenger hunt, relay races, a tug-o-war and prizes for all.
The Cancer Society's St. Thomas-St. John chapter will have a booth set up offering medical information and testing.
If the last two years are any indication, the teams' tents will rival the Carnival Village booths. Last year saw all manner of color and imagination. The tents and the teams will be judged at 9:15 a.m. Sunday, with prizes to be awarded for best decorated tent; most enthusiastic team; most participating in a team; and team raising the most money.
If there's a powerhouse team, it would appear to be the Water and Power Authority's. According to Petersen, "WAPA won everything in the first year's competition, and this year they say they'll win again."
The funds raised enable the Cancer Society to fund cancer control programs including Man to Man; Look Good Feel Better; I Can Cope; Reach to Recovery; and the patient and family assistance program.
For additional information, send an e-mail to Barbara Petersen, or call 775-5373 or 513-0997.
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