Vinton Relay for Life celebrates 2017 achievements, chooses new venue

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The Vinton Relay for Life held its annual Wrap Up Celebration to recognize the achievements of the 2017 campaign. Event Leadership Committee members were recognized including (from left): Bootie Chewning, Gerald Simmons, Suzanne Bell, Roger and Mary Saunders, Carolyn Williams, Sherry Williams, Courtney Baker, and Angie Chewning.
The Town of Vinton was recognized for its many contributions to the Vinton Relay for Life. Shown, from left, are Relay Co-Chair Carolyn Williams, Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, American Cancer Society Community Development Manager Courtney Baker, and Co-Chair Angie Chewning.
Cancer survivors were recognized and closed the meeting with the Survivor’s Prayer. Shown, from left, are Betty Kelly, Suzanne Bell, Roger Saunders, Charlotte Johnson, Gerald Simmons, and Carolyn Williams.

The Vinton Relay for Life celebrated another successful fundraising campaign in 2017 with a wrap-up celebration at the Vinton War Memorial on September 12. Top teams, individuals and sponsors were recognized.

Vinton Mayor Brad Grose opened the program, thanking the volunteers for Relay who give so much of themselves to find a cancer cure for “folks you will never see or know.”

Courtney Baker, the Senior Community Development Manager for the Southeast Region of the American Cancer Society, presented the Town of Vinton a certificate of thanks for its support of Relay for Life and an award naming the Vinton Relay an “All-American Relay.” Thanks were extended to the town for its many contributions to the success of the campaign each year, from the use of the War Memorial to assistance on Relay Night to the sponsorship of a team.

For the past several years, Vinton has won an award for having the highest regional per capita donations to Relay– generally averaging about $10 per citizen each year. Those awards have not yet been announced for the 2017 campaign.

Baker recognized the members of the Relay Event Leadership Team, 2017 co-chairs Carolyn Williams and Angie Chewing, and sponsorship chairs Gerald and Carol Simmons, who all “go above and beyond the call of duty, working non-stop most of the year” to raise the funds for research that will find a cure for cancer and provide so many worthwhile programs for victims of the disease.

Fundraising teams with the highest totals were recognized. Team Hope, which raised $38,145, was named an Emerald Level team (those who raise more than $25,000) with captain Gerald Simmons, followed by the Flower Children team with $10,904 (Jade Level, those who raise over $10,000) with captain Suzanne Bell.

The Battle at Byrd cheerleading competition ($7,000) and Bob’s Restaurant ($5,588) were named Gold Level teams, a recognition given to teams who raise over $5,000. Bob’s holds a golf tournament each year to benefit the Vinton Relay and other events throughout the year.

The Lancerlot Relay for Life team was named a Bronze Level team with $2,543 in donations. Rising Star teams were the Town of Vinton Strong Striders with $1,587 collected, the William Byrd High School Service Learning team with $1,780, and We Are Thrasher with $1,141.

Carol and Gerald Simmons, Bob’s Restaurant, and Carolyn Williams were named as Relay for Life All-Stars for raising over $2,500.

Grand Club awards were presented as well to those who raised over $1000—Bob’s Restaurant, the Lancerlot with captain Kathleen Sink, Betty Kelly, Carolyn Williams, Carol and Gerald Simmons, and Suzanne Bell.

Two special awards were presented. The New Testament Baptist Church team was given the “Spirit of Relay Award” for outstanding participation. Journey Church was named the Rookie Team of the Year.

Baker, Williams, and Chewning thanked a host of sponsors including American Efficiency Inns, the Blue Ridge Dental Group, Carilion Clinic, Carilion Family Medicine Parkway Physicians, the Civitan Group, the Clarence Pace family, Cyndi Beach Stultz with Virginia Mountain Mortgage, Dairy Queen, David Snyder, Dominion Tree Care Specialists, Betty Kelly, Grand Home Furnishings, Greenway Construction, Julian Ferguson and Associates, L.T. McGhee and Co., McDonald’s of Vinton, Oakey’s Funeral Service, Parkway Veterinary Hospital, R&R Automotive Specialists, the Town of Vinton, Vincent R. Light Co., Vinton Veterinary Hospital, the Vinton War Memorial, WFXR, William and Pamela East, Willie and Janet Leffell, Twin Creeks Brewing Co., and J&D Landscaping.

Special mention was made of Carilion Clinic, which sponsored all Relays in the area, WFXR for an excellent job of publicizing the event, and William Byrd High School, which organizes several teams each year.

A trophy was presented to the WBHS Battle at Byrd cheerleading competition that makes a sizeable contribution each and every year to Relay. That event has raised about $70,000 for Relay since 2010.

JoAnn Pace and her family were presented a plaque for their continuing and significant donations over the history of the Vinton Relay event.

The Vinton War Memorial received special recognition as well for opening up the facility to the 2017 Vinton Relay for Life when the traditional venue at the football stadium at William Byrd could not be used due to the installation of a new field and track over the spring months.

Baker said that the contributions of the War Memorial staff were priceless in making the event a success. Event and Operations Manager Chasity Barbour responded that it was “truly an honor to have you here.”

Co-chair Angie Chewning announced that the Vinton Relay for Life will make the Vinton War Memorial its new home in 2018. The installation of the new synthetic turf field and rubberized track at William Byrd presented many constraints on the activities that are usually a part of the Relay program.

After much soul searching and a survey, 70 percent of the team members preferred to keep the event at the War Memorial, which provided such a beautiful setting for Relay this year with “more intimacy.” Generous assistance from the Town of Vinton was also a significant factor in deciding to change venues.

The luminaries lining the High Ground Monument and parking lot were spectacular and visible to all those passing by on Washington Avenue. The cancer survivors who participate in the Survivor’s Walk and reception found the War Memorial extremely accessible.

The campaign kick-off and business meetings will continue to be held at William Byrd.

Baker announced the theme for the upcoming 2018 Relay for Life campaign, “The Wizard of Oz, There’s No Place Like Hope.”  The Vinton Relay is scheduled for May 4, 2018 beginning at 6 p.m.

Goals were set for 2018: fundraising in the amount of $100,000 with 40 teams, 600 participants, and 300 cancer survivors participating.

The Wrap Up Celebration concluded with the recognition of all cancer survivors present. They joined together for the Survivor’s Prayer: “I walk because I am a cancer survivor; I run to give someone else the love and strength and hope that was given to me; I walk for all the mothers and daughters, aunts and grandmothers, sisters and friends whose lives have been touched by cancer and whose hearts mourn the loss of someone dear; I walk because I want to be an inspiration; I run because I believe— I believe in a cure.”

More information is available on the Vinton Relay for Life and continuing events online at www.relayforlife.org/vintonva. Teams and members may also register to participate in 2018 on that site.