Kannapolis kicks off Relay for Life
By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — Men and women, old and young, from all over the region filled the A.L. Brown High School track Friday night.
All of them were there to fight cancer with their dollars and their dedication.
The first Relay For Life to be held in Kannapolis topped its fundraising goals, organizers said.
And while they raised upwards of $20,000 for the American Cancer Society, they made a statement.
“They get the dignity of it,” Cindy Ruby said of the participants. “They’re not alone. Everybody’s coming together as one.”
Ruby’s mother died from ovarian cancer.
She and more than 500 others gathered Friday night to walk and help the community raise funds for cancer research.
With Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” pounding out of loudspeakers, followed later in the evening by the Cartown Band, participants rounded the track, lap after lap.
The dusk-to-dawn event featured continuous walking, symbolizing the fact that cancer never sleeps.
And many cancer survivors took part in the walk.
Effie Rayburn of Concord said she’s been cancer-free for 10 years following a battle with breast cancer.
She said she’s attended the Cabarrus County Relay For Life, and that Kannapolis’ first event was a great one.
A nearby booth was packed with teachers from Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Kannapolis.
There, participants and spectators could fill a bag of candy for $1, with all proceeds going to Relay For Life.
Brenda Mercer of Concord works at the school.
She proudly showed a poster where students had played a “penny-zapping” game to raise money for Relay For Life.
Every penny donated was worth a point. Every piece of silver change took points away from a competing team.
In eight days, Mercer said, the kids at Woodrow Wilson Elementary donated $711 in pennies alone, not counting other change and additional donations.
She said the community’s support had been “very overwhelming.”
And the event itself was bittersweet for Mercer, who also lost her father to cancer.
“I’m thankful for my victory, and of course I’m remembering those who aren’t so fortunate.”
Not to be outdone, A.L. Brown’s clubs and organizations got involved.
They sold refreshments and grilled out. They walked in droves.
Recent graduate B.J. Buckley painted colorful designs on kids’ faces, and cancer memorial ribbons on adults.
Other participants from the community had their own reasons for walking.
For Iris Cotton,of Charlotte: “It was a bet I made.”
Cotton used to deliver mail to Mary Ann Daley, of Transit Damaged Freight in Kannapolis.
Cotton wanted to see Daley quit smoking.
“I told her I’d walk a lap for every day she quit,” Cotton said.
Daley quit, and waved at Cotton as she staffed the booth for her team — a partnership between her part-time business, the Southern Sugar bakery, and Oak Tree Coffee Co.
“Those folks who’ve battled this need to be remembered. We need to put an effort into finding a cure,” Cotton said.
Event co-chairperson Shelby Smith said the community’s response was wonderful.
“We couldn’t ask for better turnout, better weather, better anything, for a first-year event,” Smith said.
“There’s a lot of people who are happy that we have this event here in Kannapolis,” Smith said. “It can only get better with time.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.