By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe County’s Relay for Life team wants to “Paint the County Purple.”
“We want to paint Edgecombe County purple with purple bows that show your support for Relay for Life,” said Brenda Ward, who is serving her 12th year as purple bow chair. “The purple is the standard color for all cancers.”
Tarboro Mayor Donald Morris signed a proclamation declaring April 7-13 as “Paint the County Purple Week.”
In doing so, Morris urges citizens to “celebrate cancer survivorship, remember loved ones lost to the disease, honor caregivers and join Edgecombe County’s fight against cancer. Only together will we find a cure.”
An estimated 56,164 North Carolina residents are diagnosed with cancer each year, and 20,000 of those will not survive.
The purple bows are $5 apiece and can be placed on the front door or mailbox of a home or business, or any visible location to show support of Relay for Life. Ward said Relay coordinators sold about 1,400 bows last year. That number reflects the county’s support for Relay. Last year’s Relay in Edgecombe County ranked fourth in the nation for a county of its size for the most money raised for the American Cancer Society.
“That makes me really proud,” Ward said.
“The people in Edgecombe County, I feel like they show their compassion and their love for each other through Relay for Life,” said Bennita Dunham, community manager for the American Cancer Society. While studying at East Carolina University, Dunham had a friend, Kendra Shaw, whose mother died when she was 2 years old.
“I wouldn’t want another young lady to go through that,” Dunham said. “She is the reason that I fight so hard.”
Participating in Relay has a personal meaning for Ward, as well. Her father Alvin and mother Virginia both died of cancer and several of her friends have also died from the disease.
“I wanted to do my part to help more people be aware,” Ward said.
Susan New, Relay co-chair, said Relay is “a time of joy, it’s a celebration, and it’s a time of tears, because we do remember the ones we’ve lost.” To Ward, the most emotional part of Relay is watching the cancer survivors walk a lap around the track.
“When you see the survivors walk the survivor lap, it is just awesome,” she said. “We have that end of the spectrum, but then we have the celebrating part, too.”
New said 33 teams and 259 participants have registered for Relay so far this year. This year’s Relay will begin at 6 p.m. May 3 and end at 9 a.m. May 4 at the Tarboro High School athletic field.
“You’re awake for 24 hours. Cancer doesn’t sleep and neither do we,” New said.
A scavenger hunt, Bingo, and walking laps around the track are some of the activities that are part of Relay. “We just want to encourage families to come out and join us. It’s something for all ages,” New said.
To purchase a purple bow to contribute to Relay, call Ward at 452-7747 or see any Relay team member in the county.