LUMBERTON — The stage at Biggs Park Mall was dominated Wednesday by a chain-link fence containing unsuspecting prisoners who had to raise money in order to win their freedom.
The prisoners were willing participants in the Jail-A-Thon, organized and run by the Robeson County Government Diamond Divas and Dukes Relay for Life team. The money raised will benefit Relay for Life of Robeson County, which raises money for the American Cancer Society.
“We are raising money for Relay for Life for Robeson County and our goal was to get everyone who was running for office,” said Nicole Brooks, Robeson County Water Department director and one of the team captains for the Diamond Divas and Dukes.
The last Jail-A-Thon the Diamond Divas and Dukes raised $9,000.
The list of people caged at the mall Wednesday read like a Who’s Who of local politics and government.
“We’ve had Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris, Sen. Danny Britt, Matt Scott, running for district attorney, in the jail today,” Brooks said.
A few people were unable to come and participate, but they did make an absentee donation, Brooks said.
A few individuals, who will remain nameless, did try to run out the back door when they found out the law was on their heels, she said.
“It’s for a great cause and it’s been a lot of fun,” Brooks said.
A few prisoners sat on folding chairs behind the fence and called on family and coworkers to help bail them out.
“My day was going well until the police showed up,” said Kimberly Gold, Robeson Community College president, as she laughed.
“I’ve been involved with Relay for many years and spent some time in lockup,” Gold said. “It’s well worth my time.”
Gold had her suspicions that the county manager may have had a hand in placing her behind bars.
Another inmate of the Jail-A-Thon was James Jones Jr., a retired N.C. Highway Patrol trooper.
“I’m all for this, my mother passed four years ago from cancer and I’m a big supporter,” he said.
With the jailbirds busy calling for donations for a speedy release, Judge Harry Warriax had time to reflect on what made him volunteer as an event judge for a second time. Two of his brothers were diagnosed with cancer and his father died of prostate cancer.
“I think its important we do things like this, and I’m glad they asked me to be apart of it,” he said.
A judge’s role in the Jail-A-Thon is to set fundraising bonds on the people “arrested.” The highest bond Warriax set was $2,000 and the lowest was $150.
“Everyone has paid up but we have three pending right now, but they are working on those,” the judge said Wednesday afternoon.
The Jail-A-Thon ended at 4 p.m. No total on money raised was available on Wednesday..
“They are a fun team, doing a lot of good for the Relay for Life of Robeson County,” said Lauren Parrish, Community Development manager with the Relay For Life Southeast Region.
It was her first event with the Diamond Divas and Dukes, Parrish said. She had a “great time” meeting the team and the people of Robeson County.
“The event season ended Aug. 31 and our goal was $165,000 but Hurricane Matthew put a damper on that,” Parrish said. “But we did raise a little over $120,000 and that was great considering everything the county went through.”
Parrish said no official goal has been set for 2017. The Relay For Life of Robeson County will be held on May 18.
Reid Beaman can be reached at 910-816-1989.