By Kevin Boozer
NEWBERRY — Newberry County has gathered for 20 years to celebrate birthdays as part of Relay for Life and this year will be no different when May 2 rolls around at Newberry High School.
The Relay itself opens at 6 p.m. and will close at midnight. A survivors walk will be held at 7 p.m., followed by a caregivers walk.
As of Saturday afternoon, 50 teams and 452 participants had raised $57,376.46. About 40 teams will be represented on the field the night of Relay.
Robiette Hazel, chair of the Newberry County Relay for Life, said she remembers when the first Relay for Life was held 20 years ago. She said the event owes a lot to those early volunteers, particularly Emma Crump, who has not missed a Relay during that time.
Crump’s 50 Friends Group routinely is one of the top Newberry fundraisers, typically raising more than $20,000 each year.
Hazel (thyroid) and her mother (breast) both are cancer survivors. Robiette is four years removed from treatment and her mother battled cancer in 2008. In 2008 her father also developed cancer of his liver and bile duct and he eventually passed away from the disease.
Hazel continued to support Relay by donating during those years but it was not until recently when her work schedule changed that she was able to volunteer with the relay.
Other teams that have grown over the years include St. Philip’s Lutheran Church, Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church, Oak Grove Presbyterian Church and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. As of Saturday afternoon top participants included Harried Kesler, Cheryl Lucas and Helen Beebe.
Shuttles will be available to and from the walking track around Mike Ware Field.
A kids corner will be available for children who wear wristbands where they can play games, jump in inflatibles and do crafts. Around 9 p.m. the children will hold a Kids Wipe Out Cancer parade with their crafts in hand.
The second lap of the parade, they will give the crafts to cancer survivors.
Balloons will be sold around 9 p.m. for the luminary service at 10 p.m. Canned goods used to hold the luminaries in place will be collected at midnight for distribution to local food banks.
During the service two songs will play, one for those who lost the battle with cancer and another for survivors. People can release their balloons at any point during the song.
T-shirts commemorating the 20th year of Relay will be sold and there will be a chance to win one guitar autographed by Lady Antebellum and one guitar autographed by Willie Nelson. Registration will be through donations.
Kix Layton helped arrange the guitar from Lady Antebellum and volunteer Cindy Schumpert got Nelson to sign a guitar when he was in town at the Newberry Opera House last year.
Kevin Boozer may be reached at 803-276-0625 ext. 109.