LUMBERTON — Temperatures were high Friday afternoon and so were hopes that the 23rd annual Robeson County Relay for Life would help win the fight against cancer, the nation’s No. 2 killer, claiming about 600,000 lives a year.
A handful of stalwart walkers strode around the track at the Robeson County Fairgrounds beneath a brilliant sun as music blared from speakers and people manned colorful vendor tents that offered food and a wide variety of goods for sell, the proceeds from which benefit the event, which has raised about $2.5 million since it was established in the county in 1995.
As the sun beat down on walkers and supporters, team members constructed luminaries in a Robeson County Sheriff’s Office trailer.
“We’re wide open,” Lisa Hendren, an organizer of the event, said of her team of luminary makers.
The luminaries were to be placed around the track and illuminated during a 9 p.m. ceremony.
Activities officially began at 9 a.m. Friday, but some people came Thursday evening to set up their vendor tents, said Lauren Parrish, Relay community manager. Many came early to set up grills and fryers in which to cook food during the 24-hour event.
“Part of our team is on the track right now,” said Sandra Pridgen, co-chair of the Shagging for a Cure team from Fairmont.
Pridgen said she has been participating in the Relay since 2010.
Teams of walkers will have people on the track until 9 a.m. today. Relay organizers set a goal of 65 teams and a fundraising goal of $165,000.
“Our participation is down,” said Amanda Smith, an event organizer.
The Relay lost teams because of Hurricane Matthew and the resulting flooding, she said. Some people were forced from their homes and some teams couldn’t participate because they still were rebuilding homes and churches.
“One team just recently got back in their church, West Lumberton Baptist,” Smith said.
More people and more walkers will come as the day progresses, she said about mid-afternoon, before people began leaving their jobs. The planned evening’s activities included a dinner and a lap around the track for cancer survivors. There also was to be a lap for caretakers.
Smith was confident the Relay will meet its fundraising goal because money will be raised until the end of August.
“We do have quite a bit of money that comes in after the event,” Smith said. “Some teams have fundraisers after the event.”
The Robesonian will have comprehensive coverage of the event on www.robesonian.com today and in Sunday’s print edition.
Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.