The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

September 18, 2013

Relay for Life moving to SouthWest Edgecombe


TARBORO — In a 20-15 vote taken during a Monday evening meeting, Relay for Life team representatives decided to move Relay from Tarboro High School to SouthWest Edgecombe High School. Relay has been held at Tarboro for the past 17 years.

Relay for Life is a major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in which participants walk a track throughout the night to symbolize the fact that cancer never sleeps.

The 2014 Relay co-chairs, Lauren Edmondson and Caroline Craft, brought up the idea of moving Relay to SouthWest at the meeting at St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church.

“It’s a change of scenery. It’s time for a change,” said Caroline Craft. “You’ll have people who come out who haven’t come before … I think we’ll pull more county teams.”

Craft and Edmondson asked those in attendance for a list of “pros” and “cons” of having the event at SouthWest versus Tarboro, and about a half-hour discussion ensued.

Phyllis Talbot, a cancer survivor and Relayer who lives in Tarboro, voiced her opinion that this year’s Relay will be successful regardless of where it is held.

At one point in the discussion, Craft posed the question, “How many of you would not come to Relay if we had it at SouthWest?”

No one raised a hand.

“If you’re Relaying for the right reasons, you’ll come anywhere,” Craft said.

Susan New, 2013 Relay co-chair, shares that opinion.

“I’m going to Relay regardless of where we do it,” New said. “It’s not where we Relay, it’s why we Relay that matters. We Relay to find a cure (for cancer).”

Stephen Eason, 2013 co-chair, said he supports the move to SouthWest “100 percent” and feels that now is the time to revamp Relay.

“Anytime you make changes, it’s a learning experience, but I think it’s going to generate a lot of excitement, also,” he said. If the new venue works out, he believes it will “renew Relay.”

“I do feel like the spectrum of Edgecombe County deserves to host an event like this,” Eason said. “I think it (the move) is going to draw new Relayers … just looking to draw a different crowd, and expanding.”

Nell Skiles, Relay publicity chair, raised the question of whether moving Relay to the “middle of the county” would impact attendance of cancer survivors. Generally, she said about 300 survivors attend Relay at Tarboro, and the impact of the change in location on attendance has yet to be seen.

“Relay is about survivorship and celebrating survivorship,” she said. “We need to be thinking about how it’s going to affect the survivors.”

Skiles, who has been involved in Edgecombe County’s Relay for Life from day one, has an overall positive attitude about the change in venue.

“This is going to be like our very first Relay. It’s all going to be new,” she said. “This may be the shot in the arm that we need to re-energize Relay.”

Eugene Taylor, assistant chair of logistics for Relay, said while he is used to the event being held in Tarboro, he supports the co-chairs’ decision to move it to SouthWest.

“The location’s not going to affect me one way or another,” he said. “I relay because it’s a good cause and we’re trying to find a cure for a disease that affects so many people, including myself. I am a survivor.”

Planning the logistics of Relay will take more time than usual this year because of the new venue.

“This year we’re going to have to stop and think outside the box,” he said. “We’re going to have to step back and see what we need to different this year because it’s in a different location.”

Another item of discussion that was raised at Monday’s meeting was the skirmishes involving teenagers at past Relay events in Tarboro. Capt. Allen Moseley of the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement has handled the situations expediently. Some at Monday’s meeting said they think the isolation of SouthWest might keep people from coming to the event for reasons other than supporting the cause.

“Having it at a location that is a little more removed from the center of the Town of Tarboro might prevent that,” said Penney Sumrell, Relay awards and judging committee member. “The people who make the effort to go to SouthWest are going to be there for the sole purpose of supporting the cause of Relay.”

Patricia Earnhardt Tyndall, senior community manager for the American Cancer Society’s Greenville office, said every county experiences the problem of scuffles every now and then at Relay, because it is an event that is open to the community. Security is on hand each year at Edgecombe County’s Relay, and Sumrell said it is a “safe event” where people can feel comfortable bringing their children.

Relay for Life will be held May 2-3, 2014, on the track at SouthWest.