Around (and around) the bend - Relay nearly here

The teams are in place, the location set and the money is still rolling in.

Barnwell County's Relay For Life 2009 is just waiting for Friday, April 24 to come around for the event to occur.

Already the county has mustered 16 teams for fund-raising, 14 of which will be walking in the Relay on Friday night. That equates to about 200 participants, said Valerie M. Bridges, the community manager for the South Atlantic division of the American Cancer Society.

The biggest difference in this year's Relay is location. The event will occur all on the Circle in downtown Barnwell. Relay teams will actually be walking the streets that ring the Circle that night, she said.

"We have the city involved, which is a huge thing - which really helps," Bridges said.

Because of the location, the entire Circle area will be closed to traffic starting at 4 p.m. until the end of the event, said Barnwell Police Chief Todd Gantt.

The sections of Main and Burr Streets at the Circle will be closed to vehicular traffic as will the center lane of Dunbarton Boulevard leading up to the Circle. Pechmann Street will also be closed to automobiles, he said.

Bridges is the coordinator for the Relay For Life event in Barnwell County as well as the one in Orangeburg, which is happening on the same night.
Barnwell County's Relay For Life has a goal of raising $46,000, Bridges said.

Despite the tough economic times, generosity is winning out, she said.

"That's something we took into consideration," Bridges said of the economy possibly hampering donations this year.

"It seems when people have a passion for something, it trumps the economy," she said.

The opening ceremony for Relay will begin at 7 p.m. with the Survivor Lap occurring immediately afterwards. The Survivor Lap is where cancer survivors make the first circuit around the Relay walking course to start the actual Relay.

Teams are supposed to keep at least one team member on the course walking (relaying) throughout the night.

Once the survivors finish the inaugural lap, they will retire to the community room at the Barnwell Public Library for the traditional survivors dinner where they can commiserate with fellow cancer survivors who have battled this disease in its many forms.

Having the survivors dinners after their lap is the traditional way the dinner is supposed to happen, Bridges said.

At Relay events in previous years, the dinner was held just before the Relay event or several days beforehand.

Bridges said she has 64 survivors registered for the dinner.

The deejay for Relay this year is Gary Brantley. The luminary ceremony will be at 9 p.m. when lights are doused and Relayers walk by the light of the luminaries, the illuminated bags. Each bag has the name of a cancer victim on it to memorialize those lost to cancer.

During the night, there will be food available to buy from fellow Relay teams and a variety of entertainment for young and old occurring, Bridges said.
The public is invited to participate, walk a lap and buy food and items from the teams and support this year's Relay.

The People-Sentinel's Great American Yard Sale did not have as many vendors this year as in the past, but one vendor still held the spirit of that event. The yard sale is the newspaper's event to help raise money for Relay. Money from the rental of yard sale booth spaces in the newspaper parking lot goes toward Relay, as does its hot dog and concession sales during the yard sale.

Other local events have been "jail and bail" phone fund-raising and sales of "Fight Like a Girl" t-shirts.

Tina Smith had been participating in the yard sale for the past three years.

This year's yard sale took on special meaning as her daughter, Breanna Buckmon, was diagnosed with cancer back in August. Buckmon was about to enter her freshman year at Newberry College.

"Ironically, her major is nursing, which is what she was planning to do before she got diagnosed," Smith said.

Now that she is fighting cancer, Buckmon is interested in hematology or oncology, Smith said.

"Who better to relate to a patient than someone who has gone through it?" she said.

Although Smith could have paid the reduced price on a vendor booth after the newspaper dropped the rental price from $30 to $20 the day before the yard sale, Smith paid the full price.

"Even now I feel more obligated because you never know when it will affect you," she said. "In the past, when I would stand here and do the yard sale, it was for the donation. But now, this year, it's a lot different."

Buckmon has only one or two chemotherapy treatments left to take, her mother said.

Friends and family have rallied around the mother and daughter.

"I've had overwhelming support for all this. It's been tremendous," Smith said.