LUMBERTON — Raindrops bounced off Nancy Britt early Friday as she walked laps, each step purposeful and with a worthy intent.
Britt wasn’t thinking about the rain. Her mind was elsewhere, not on what was for her a minor annoyance. She was think of those who faced much more — her parents, both of whom she lost to cancer; her nephews who battle cancer; and even herself, and three times she has fought the deadly disease and survived.
That is why she and hundreds of other participants were at the Robeson County Fairgrounds on Friday to participate in the 24th edition of the Robeson County Relay for Life. And why they will be there this morning as well as the 24-hour event ends at 9 a.m.
Its goal is to raise $150,000 for the American Cancer Society, which works to find a cure for the nation’s No. 2 killer, with about 600,000 deaths each year in the United States. Lung, breast, and prostate cancer are the top killers.
The walk is personal for Britt. She had breast cancer in 2006 and fought it with radiation. In 2007 she battled uterine cancer without radiation, and in 2013 she fought off breast cancer again.
Britt underwent 21 rounds of chemotherapy. Four of those were particulary hard, she said.
“This is a chance to give back,” Britt said. “Anything to help others. It’s about giving hope.”
She had walked along the fairground’s track since 8:45 a.m., and her Fitbit said she was up to 27,461 steps. She was just getting started.
“I plan to walk until bedtime,” she said.
Britt, as a cancer survivor, got in free. There was a $2 donation charge for others, unless they were wearing a 2018 Hope Club shirt.
Throughout the day there were different events, including a Survivor Dinner, a Survivor/ Caregiver Walk, and a Luminaria Ceremony.
There was also entertainment throughout the day, as the fairgrounds was transformed into a mini-city, with dancing and performances from bands and vocalists.
Morgan Sills is the organizer of the American Cancer Society’s Robeson County Relay for Life. At 4:30 p.m. on Friday, she was feeling pretty good about hitting the mark. Money will continue to come in well after the event ends today.
“I think we’ll be very close,” she said. “Probably within $20,000.”
Whatever is raised this year will add to almost $2.7 million the event has already raised during its 24 years.
Sills pointed to the many people present to help reach the goal.
“We have between 800 and 1,000 people walking as part of 46 teams,” Sills said. “We are encouraging people to walk all the time. It symbolizes that the battle doesn’t stop. That’s what survivors do.”
“We’re dedicated to supporting survivors and fighting against cancer,” said Alyssa Kardatzke, of the American Cancer Society.
The Maxton American Indian Network 11-member team was there Friday representing Campbell Soup Company. Serena Hardin, MAIN president, said they raise money throughout the year for Relay for Life. Campbell Soup Company will donate $10 to Relay for Life for each hour an employee volunteers at the Relay.
Sandra Scott, a volunteer and Campbell Soup Company employee, said the cause is close to her because she lost both her parents to cancer.
Joyce Canady hoped to walk until 11 p.m. She has several friends who have survived cancer.
“I feel it’s a worthy cause,” Canady said. “I wish the disease would be eliminated. It probably won’t be in my lifetime, but in generations to come.”
“It’s a great way to remember and honor survivors,” Janie McFarland said.
“It’s not a one-day event,” Linda Hunt said. “We should support it all year.”
The American Cancer Society will use the money to support patient services, a cancer hotline at 1-800-227-2345, educational programs about the disease, research at top universities, and advocacy activities to keep government leaders focused on cancer.