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Relay draws crowds under sunny skies

Above, cancer survivor Linda Higgs gets a hug from her granddaughter, Ashleigh Woody after the “victory lap” Friday during the Relay for Life at Lincolnton High School. Family members traveled all the way from Tennessee to be with her. Below, Frankie Beam walks with her sister, Patricia, and mom Betty Sue Allen. All three are cancer survivors. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo

After relayers finished the final lap at the sun-drenched Lincolnton High School stadium Saturday morning, Co-Chairman Susan Beaver was beaming.
“I was pleased with the weather,” she said. “We’ve had bad weather the past three years…three years. This year was wonderful.”
Last year was devastating for Lincolnton’s Relay for Life, a major fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. Just as relayers were preparing to set up campsites, a severe storm swept across Lincolnton, tossing tents across the field and soaking carefully prepared luminaries.
This time skies stayed clear and temperatures were mild, sometimes hot.
Beaver estimated some 2,000 people came to the event, which began at 6 p.m Friday and continued through 9 a.m. Saturday. Some 42 teams representing area churches, businesses schools and other organizations participated.
“This year I felt like it was a community of friends,” she said. “There was a lot of support out there.”
The relay traditionally draws together families and friends of those afflicted with cancer who show their support by walking the track in support of fund pledges and obtaining luminaries with the names of loved ones.
The event kicked off Friday afternoon as temperatures soared to the high 80s. Chris Suchan, a meteorologist with WBTV serving as celebrity host, quickly took credit for the almost cloudless skies.
He said he promised organizers he would try to help.
“Just look,” he said, pointing to the sky.
During the opening ceremonies honorary chairpersons gave poignant accounts of their own battles with cancer. Elaine Garner, a seamstress who works at Carolina Drapery, told of her battle with life-threatening myaloma. She opted for for a new treatment involving the harvesting of stem cells and today is a five-year survivor.
Inspiring stories were also heard from Ann Keever, who is battling ovarian cancer, and from Tom and Linda Townsend, husband and wife who were both diagnosed with cancer.
Emcee Stephen Starnes repeatedly emphasized their message was not one of dispair, but of hope, the word appearing in big letters on the Relay T-shirts this year.
The celebration began with a “victory” walk around the track by cancer survivors,. led by a cast from S. Ray Lowder portraying Wizard of Oz characters.
After sundown the luminaries marked with names of those who have battled cancer were lit. In the stadium seats another group of luminaries spelled out the word “hope” as the lights were switched off briefly across the field.
Relayers were treated to live entertainment throughout the evening, and many camp sites were continuing their fundraising efforts by selling cookies and cakes and lottery tickets.
Preliminary figures show the Lincolnton Relay has raised approximately $135,000, but final results of the fund-raising effort will not be available until next month. The Lincolnton Relay set a goal of $175,000.
Lincolnton’s contribution will be added to that of the East Lincoln Relay, which raised approximately $204,000 last month. Lincoln County traditionally ranks as a top fund-raiser nationally.
John Dancoff, who co-chairs the event with Beaver, said he wasn’t as concerned about the money this year as was about having a good event with good weather and and fun activities.
Dancoff often compared the weather interruptions to the sudden, unexpected onset of cancer that bring storms to so many people’s lives.
Dancoff, Beaver and all the relay teams hoped for good weather and that’s what the relay was all about — hope.by Albert Dozier

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