Relay for Life returns to Rowan County fairgrounds Friday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

By Susan Shinn

For The Salisbury Post

Felicia Charles is excited about this year’s Relay for Life.

“It’s gonna be a really great event,” she says. “I’m ready. Let’s go!”

This is her first year serving as event lead, which means she’s chairing the 21st annual event. This year’s Relay begins at 6 p.m. Friday at the Rowan County Fairgrounds.

Eight years ago, Charles accompanied her mother, a breast cancer survivor, to the survivors’ dinner. She was impressed with the love and caring shown by the volunteers.

She told her mom, “I really want to do this. I want to be a part of this.”

She’s been a part of it ever since.

The survivors’ dinner on Saturday was completely full, Charles reports. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Charles is especially excited about the luminaria ceremony, set for 9 p.m., which remembers those who have died in the fight against cancer.

Jennifer Ashley is in charge of that ceremony for the first time, and Charles promises a special event.

“Words can’t describe the ceremony she has planned,” Charles says. “The energy and love she has is amazing. She has put her heart and soul into this.”

Another special event is the survivors lap, set for 6:40 p.m.

Tisha Goodwin chairs the survivors group, and says she loves seeing the purple T-shirts sported by survivors all over town.

“It’s a great billboard,” Goodwin says. “They have fought a battle and won.”

Goodwin has served in her current capacity since 1996. “Seeing the survivors and recognizing them is just wonderful. That’s the best part of Relay for me.”

Goodwin notes that survivors walk, not run, that first lap. And you don’t even have to walk it, Goodwin notes, thanks to the trolley provided by F&M Bank.

“If you’ve never been, just come out,” Goodwin says. “It’s very humbling to see.”

Genny Mozolak is a three-time cancer survivor who has been involved with Relay for the past eight years.

“It certainly fits into my mission to give back to the community, and be part of what you’ve known and experienced, and share it,” she says. “The Relay family has turned out to be a wonderful group of people from all around Salisbury and Rowan County. You end up supporting each other.”

In the last three years, she’s faced cancer and a recurrence.

“God has smiled at me and said, you’re gonna survive this,” Mozolak says. “Through Relay, I believe in raising money for research and giving back to the community.”

A week ago, Mozolak had a knee replacement, and didn’t get to attend the survivors dinner and won’t get to attend Relay.

But that’s OK, she says. “I’m busy taking back my life.”

Relay supports local programs such as Look Good Feel Better, Reach to Recovery and Road to Recovery, Mozolak notes. She’s also been active in the Cancer Action Network, the lobbyist arm of the American Cancer Society. Information about these programs is available the night of Relay.

Along with all those fabulous tents set up by the teams and decorated in an ’80s theme this year, there will be live music by Darrell Harwood from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m., and Wallace from 9:45 to 10:45 p.m. Folks can donate hair through the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program with the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College cosmetology program, starting at 6:30 p.m.

The basket raffle returns in full force this year. Available items include a one-night stay at the Lake Lure Inn and Spa with Jacuzzi room, couples massage, champagne and dinner; a Dine Out basket with $625 worth of gift cards from restaurants all over Salisbury; a garden cart basket valued at $750; a ladies’ basket valued at $1,000; wireless Beats headphones; and a Bose bluetooth speaker.

“A $1 raffle ticket will give you a chance at a lot of good stuff,” Goodwin notes.

If Relay seems like a big deal in Rowan County, it is. As a matter of fact, the Rowan County Relay for Life has been honored as one of the country’s top 50 Relays, Charles says.

It’s one of the top Relays in North Carolina and ranked in the top 20 in the South Atlantic region, according to Allison Reeves, the American Cancer Society staff member who works with the Relays in Rowan and Yadkin counties.

That’s significant considering there are some 5,200 Relays in existence.

“The Rowan Relay is a phenomenal event,” Reeves says. “Of course, I’m partial to Rowan County because my son went to school here, and my new daughter-in-law is from here.”

She adds, “There’s a lot of passion here for Relay. There’s a lot of passion to beat this disease, and the drive that comes from that passion is just amazing. I’ve never been to an event that’s the size of the Rowan event.”

Pretty good for a small town like Salisbury, Charles says. “When you have the love and the support of the community, big things happen.”

Reeves would still love to have sponsors for Relay, at any level. Sponsorships start at $100, and sponsors will receive recognition at Relay if they contact Reeves before Friday. For details, call her at 336-428-1410.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.