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Relay for Life steps off to soggy start

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Brenda Woodruff, center, a breast cancer survivor, holds hands with her husband John Woodruff as they walk the survivor's lap Friday during the Nash County Relay For Life at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Twin Counties area was a scene of off-again, on-again rain on Friday, but the 25th annual Nash County Relay for Life began as planned later in the evening at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex.

“Cancer will still strike in the rain,” said event co-Chairman Bradley Leonard, 22. “So we don’t stop, either. It’s just that simple — and this means a whole lot to a lot of people in this community.”

The American Cancer Society’s signature event for Nash County began at 6:45 p.m., with survivors making the first lap on the track to vocal support from the bystanders. The event is set to conclude at 11:30 a.m. today.

Among the survivors there for the start of the event was Dennis Sawyer, 77, of Rocky Mount, who served in the Marine Corps from 1962-66.

Although Sawyer survived prostate cancer approximately a decade ago, the cancer has returned — and he was in a wheelchair on Friday evening.

Sawyer said he is going to do the best he can to beat the disease.

“That’s all you can do,” he said. “God gives you what he gives you.”

His daughter Lori Joyner, 50, also of Rocky Mount, said of the event, “It’s just nice to see so much support in the community. Everybody comes together.”

Marilyn Edmonds, 51, of Nashville, survived gall bladder cancer.

Of what was going through her mind when she made the first lap, Edmunds summed up her feelings in one word, “Survival.”

“Weather is no factor because I’ve been through a storm worse than this, but I survived it,” she said.

Debbie Dew, 56, of Nashville, survived breast cancer.

“I don’t want to see cancer in anybody’s life,” Dew said while making the first lap. “I want it to just go away.

“We’ve got to continue walking. We’ve got to keep on fighting.” 

Gary Smith, 62, of Sandy Cross, survived testicular cancer and lymphoma.

As for the sight and sound of the crowd providing support, Smith said, “It’s a little sentimental.”

“It tears me up,” he said. “I mean, I think back at what I went through and how lucky I am to be here.

“I was blessed that the Lord kept me here.”

The fundraising goal for the 2019 Nash County Relay for Life is $150,000 and as of Friday evening, $94,279 had been raised.

Event organizers have until the end of August to achieve the goal.

To follow the Nash County Relay for Life online, go to http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY19SER

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