ROGERSVILLE — Despite sometimes heavy rainfall on Saturday, May 11, the 2019 Hawkins County Relay for Life celebration drew a large number of cancer survivors, caregivers and family members to Rogersville City Park.

Activities began at 2 p.m. at the park’s main stage and in the area surrounding the park’s walking track. Large hanging baskets of flowers were available for purchase in honor of cancer victims and survivors.

Events, such as cake walks, a silent auction, food sales and entertainment took place as participants waited for the annual cancer survivor’s lap and caregiver’s lap around the walking track at about 7:15 p.m.

Prior to the victory laps for survivors and caregivers, the annual “ceremony of hope” was held at 6:30 p.m. During that ceremony, State Representative Gary Hicks, Jr., read aloud the names of cancer survivors who were being honored. The survivors, who were wearing purple t-shirts, stood on the track in front of the main stage and received medals as their names were called aloud.

After all the names were read, the cancer survivors followed a large banner during a lap around the track. The cancer survivor caregivers then took a similar lap around the park’s walking track behind another banner. Some cancer survivors also joined the caregivers in their lap.

Also on hand for the Relay for Life celebration were several fund-raising teams – some of whom had large tents to gather beneath. One such team was the PAC (Pioneers Against Cancer) team, which is in its 18th year of operation, according to team member Linda Poe. Also on hand was the Walmart Team, which featured a number of its members dressed as characters from the popular Star Wars® films.

Musical entertainment, including a performance by the String Break singing duo, continued into the evening and the day’s activities culminated in the annual luminaria ceremony at 9:30 p.m. Small, white paper bags with lit candles inside them glimmered as dusk fell over the walking track. Each paper sack was inscribed with the name of a cancer victim or survivor or the name of someone honored for their support of cancer victims and their families.

Relay for Life origin

One person truly can make a difference. In May 1985, Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, raising money to help the American Cancer Society with the nation’s biggest health concern: cancer.

Gordy spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at the University of Puget Sound. Friends, family, and patients watched and supported him as he walked and ran more than 83.6 miles and raised $27,000 through pledges to help save lives from cancer. As he circled the track, he thought of how he could get others to take part. He envisioned having teams participate in a 24-hour fundraising event. The next year, 19 teams were part of the first Relay For Life event at the historical Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000.

After previously battling stomach cancer, Gordy passed away from heart failure on Aug. 3, 2014, at the age of 71. But his legacy lives on. He shaped an idea that started as one man walking and running a track and helped turn it into a global fundraising phenomenon known as Relay for Life.