Why do I Relay?

Why do I relay? Because cancer never sleeps, relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length.

This gives participants an opportunity to celebrate, remember and fight back against cancer.

Shepherd University will hold its Relay for Life on Friday, beginning at 6 p.m. through 6 a.m. on Saturday morning in the Wellness Center, with the theme “Finish the Fight.” Come out and see first hand the enthusiasm from more thanr 48 teams and 458 participants. Featured will be games, raffles, food, dancing and other entertainment.

As a cancer survivor since 2006, I participated in Shepherd Relay long before I became a statistic following breast cancer. After several years of volunteering where needed it was suggested to me and co-worker and fellow survivor Elizabeth Hess to join as co-captains for a team of survivors at Shepherd. Several staff and faculty members heard the call and reached out to become members. Thus, the SU Survivors team was born.

During the first year we participated in the chili cookoff and won first place, thanks to my son Wes who concocted his own chili recipe titled “Nitro Chili.” The team held a raffle along with donations toward its goal. Campus-wide teams would collect pennies and once again the SU Survivors team came out a winner. What support we received from everyone. It is not the matter of winning; we are winners already fighting for this cause. Thinking purple, our team set up our table display and came in first in our first year.

Why do people volunteer? Most will say, like me, that theuy volunteer “to honor a loved one they lost to this disease and to honor those survivors.”

I volunteer as a survivor to honor family members and friends. Michael Woodbray gave a beautiful meaning, “To honor his grandmother and mother and the numerous friends who fought, are fighting, won and lost. It is to keep their spirit and memories alive.”

Friday is the lighting of the luminaires in honor or memory of a loved one. There is a name of the ones who are still here. There’s a name of those gone we still hold dear. There’s a name each one shining in the flames and we know that every candle has a name. It is a beautiful and somber sight to see the flickering candles in the darkness.

Something else I did to spread the word was to write a poem used on bookmarks titled “Purple.” The color symbolizes Relay for Life — purple balloons, purple shirts and purple banners, to name a few. Purple represent strength, tenderness, nurturing, love, compassion — unique and special. The reason you walk arm in arm a lap or two makes a statement, sending a message to survivors.

This is why I Relay.

— Patt Welsh writes from Kearneysville


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