Relay for Life Kick-off looks back in remembrance and forward with hope

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VINTON–The Vinton Relay for Life kicked off their annual campaign on February 1 with a poignant look back at those lost to cancer this year and a look ahead to raising funds to defeat the disease.  The Vinton Relay is scheduled for May 6 at William Byrd High School.

Angie Chewning once again serves as chair of the event.  Carolyn Williams will serve with her as co-chair.

Chewning opened the meeting by introducing William Byrd principal Dr. Richard Turner, a nine year cancer survivor, who also lost his father to cancer.

Turner said that cancer is no respecter of persons.

“Our mission is so important,” said Turner. “Of all my duties at William Byrd, this is the most important. Cancer doesn’t draw lines among race, creed, and gender. It takes all of us working together to fight for a cure. It’s people’s lives we are talking about.”

Turner said that one of his goals has been to involve his students in the Relay event. Several students representing theatre arts and the Service Learning Leadership classes assisted with the kick-off, including decorating the cafeteria where the dinner was held and taking part in the program. Student Laura Schneider sang “America the Beautiful” to introduce this year’s theme: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Cure. Relay: Made in America.”

Turner noted that President Obama set a “moonshot” goal for America of finding a cure for cancer in his recent State of the Union address.

He also reminded volunteers that over the eight years that Relay has been held in Vinton, over $700,000 has been raised for cancer research, awareness, and treatment programs.

Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, thanked the volunteers for their hard work and dedication to the cause of finding a cure for cancer, which “unfortunately unites us,” and has touched his own family.

In what has become a tradition, WBHS Head Cheer Coach Dee-Anne Dillon presented a check from the proceeds of the Battle at Byrd “Cheer 4 a Cure” cheerleading competition held in October. This year the check was for $11,571.

WBHS Head Cheer Coach Dee-Anne Dillon presented the Vinton Relay for Life a check for $11,571 at their kick-off dinner on February 1. Shown left to right are WBHS principal Dr. Richard Turner, Relay Chair Angie Chewning, Dillon, and Relay Co-chair Carolyn Williams.
WBHS Head Cheer Coach Dee-Anne Dillon presented the Vinton Relay for Life a check for $11,571 at their kick-off dinner on February 1. Shown left to right are WBHS principal Dr. Richard Turner, Relay Chair Angie Chewning, Dillon, and Relay Co-chair Carolyn Williams.

Stacey Hill, Senior Manager for the local ACS Relay for Life, praised local Relay volunteers saying that, “when you volunteer you vote everyday about the kind of community you want to live in.” She shared her own personal experience with cancer as did Courtney Baker, the local ACS staff partner for Relay.

Organizers of the kick-off dinner emphasized the programs funded through Relay for Life, including the “Look Good Feel Better” program which was described by Pat Bruce from ACS.

WBHS Service Learning Leadership student Max Kinney graciously agreed to be the model for Pat Bruce as she demonstrated "Look Better Feel Better" techniques to help cancer victims combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatments with wigs, scarves, hats, turbans, and even t-shirts.
WBHS Service Learning Leadership student Max Kinney graciously agreed to be the model for Pat Bruce as she demonstrated “Look Better Feel Better” techniques to help cancer victims combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatments with wigs, scarves, hats, turbans, and even t-shirts.

According to the ACS, “Cancer can rob a woman of her energy, appetite, and strength, but it doesn’t have to take away her self confidence. Look Good Feel Better is a free program that teaches beauty techniques to women in active treatment to help them combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.”

Cancer patients learn how to use wigs, turbans, scarves, and even t-shirts to overcome the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. They receive make-up kits with over $250 worth of products donated by the cosmetic industry and are taught the techniques for using them by beauty professionals.

During cancer treatments, beauty professionals in the Look Good Feel Better program help with skin care and make-up application, advice on wig selection and wig care, dry skin and discolored nails, and style tips.

Bruce said that professionals in the field noticed that cancer patients seemed to feel better when they were given the tools to improve their physical appearance.  That led to development of the program which is “product neutral, non-medical, and free.”

Bruce said her philosophy has always been, “If you feel bad, put some make-up on—at least a little blush, lipstick, and maybe some mascara.” She told the volunteers that years ago she realized that using her skills in helping women struck by cancer with their appearance was “something I personally can do to help.”

Look Good Feel Better programs are scheduled on a monthly basis at Lewis-Gale Medical Center, the ACS office at Colonnade Park off of Route 419 in Roanoke, and at New Horizons Healthcare on Melrose Avenue.

More information on the Look Good Feel Better program is available online at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org  or by calling the ACS at 540-774-2717.

Bruce also told the group about other local cancer programs to assist those dealing with the disease, including “Reach to Recovery” which pairs breast cancer patients with someone who has also battled the disease, “Road to Recovery” which provides drivers for patients who need transportation to and from treatment, and the Discovery Shop at Townside Shopping Center in Roanoke which raises funds for ACS by selling donated items.

Carolyn Williams spoke at the conclusion of the program. She and her husband Don brought the Relay for Life to Vinton in 2008. He lost his life this past year after being a 19 year cancer survivor. He was well-known throughout the area for his volunteer work for the American Cancer Society (ACS) and especially for the thousands of luminary candle bags he has prepared and displayed for Relay events over the years.

“Each bag represented someone special and loved who survived or was lost to cancer,” said Williams.

Williams spoke poignantly of his loss and of her determination to carry on the fight in his honor. She mentioned the different experimental drugs which were the result of fundraising by the ACS which extended his life for a period of time once his cancer returned and which helped defeat her own cancer.

Williams said that the friendships they formed with other Relay volunteers were what sustained them especially through the last months of his life.

“You were our support system,” said Williams. “There was always food, cards, company and prayers.”

Many Relay for Life fundraisers are scheduled in the next few months and are announced on the Vinton Relay for Life Facebook page. The annual “Paint the Town Purple” event in which volunteers decorate the entire town with purple ribbons to promote cancer awareness and the upcoming Relay event is scheduled for April 23.