Relay for Life of Bradley County returns to Downtown Cleveland on May 2 to fight against cancer alongside survivors and to honor those who have lost the battle.
Event Chair Tammy Leatherwood recently reminded the community it is not too late to join the cause.
“Bradley County has always been one of the biggest in this area,” she said. “We are an award-winning relay. In 2012, we were in the top five relays in the state for money raised.”
Leatherwood wants to continue the momentum in 2014’s relay with a goal of $150,000.
The event will start at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 2 and continue through Saturday, May 3, at 8 p.m. The “track” will be made up of the four roads wrapped around the downtown Courthouse: Broad Street N.W., 2nd Street N.W., North Ocoee Street and Bobby Taylor Avenue. Booths, a first aid station and team headquarters will be set up around the Courthouse.
Teams will walk relay-style with at least one person on the road at any given time. There are currently 39 teams registered for a total of more than 230 participants. According to the official Relay for Life website, the teams have managed to raise at least $49,002. Additional funds may be forthcoming.
Leatherwood would like to see more of Cleveland and Bradley County show up to help reach the goal amount. The money goes to the American Cancer Society for cancer research.
More and more relay participants have either been affected by cancer themselves or witnessed a relative, friend or spouse with the affliction.
“You never know when it is going to knock on your front door,” Leatherwood said. “I would never have dreamed my brother (Kevin Scoggins) would be diagnosed. I would never have dreamed my daughter (Amber Olinger) would be diagnosed when she was 24 years old.”
Continued Leatherwood. “I don’t want my grandkids to have to hear those words, you know? My grandkids are 8, 7 and 5. I would love it if no one had to hear those words again.”
Friends and family have joined Leatherwood on Team Relentless. The group formed in 2006 after Scoggins was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma in 2005. The team has relayed every year since with the exception of 2007, when Olinger underwent treatments for a rare form of throat cancer.
“It is on a more personal level,” Leatherwood said. “It makes me want to fight harder.”
Teams can be made up of friends, family members, co-workers, groups, churches or corporations.
The relay goes for 25 hours through rain or shine to symbolize cancer’s indiscriminate nature. Leatherwood explained it targets individuals regardless of age, race, socioeconomic standing, religion or lifestyle.
“We have relayed when it is 90 degrees. We have relayed in the pouring down rain,” she said. “We have relayed when it was cold. ... The only thing we have not done is relay in the snow.
“It reflects the day in the life of a cancer patient. Their battles continue whether it is rain or shine. They have to fight. They have to have the will to fight.”
This year’s theme is “Finish the Fight.” It is a time to show support for those who have been affected by cancer. This includes the Luminaria. Participants decorate paper bags containing votive candles with drawings, photos and messages to loved ones who are fighting cancer or who have passed away from cancer.
According to Leatherwood, it is also a time of celebration. She stressed involvement by the community is critical. She said she could fill up to 10 poster boards of people she personally knows who have been affected by cancer.
“Everyone knows someone who has had cancer,” Leatherwood said. “If every person that knows someone who has had cancer would donate $10, we could reach our goal.”
More information can be found at relay.org/bradleytn.