PROGRESS 2019 | Hope for a cure: Local Relay For Life raises thousands for cancer research annually

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019

After more than 20 years, the Winchester-Clark County Relay for Life chapter hasn’t stopped its quest for a cure.

Becky Manley, community development manager for the American Cancer Society, said over that time, the community has helped raise more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society to help fund research for a cure to cancer.

“We keep fighting,” Manley said.

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All money raised through the annual event supports cancer research, patient care services, education and prevention initiatives through ACS.

The end goal, Manley said, would be to put her in the ranks of the unemployed.

“I tell people all the time, ‘I want you to put me out of a job,’” Manley said. “I don’t want cancer here either. If we can do that, let’s do it.”

Manley said there is a need for renewed enthusiasm among chapters throughout the U.S. as many chapters — including Clark County — have seen participation decrease in recent years.

However, the Clark County Relay for Life chapter is addressing the issue head-on by attempting to reconnect with the community.

She said the committee wanted to go back to the basics and ensure it stays true to its mission: cultivating hope in Clark County.

The 2019 Relay for Life event, under the theme “Hometown Hope,” will take place in downtown Winchester, allowing vendors to set up on Main Street. Manley said she hopes this will make the event more accessible.

In previous years, Relay for Life has held the event at Campbell Junior High School.

The 2019 event, which marks the 23rd year locally, will also take place in September instead of June. Manley said she thinks this move will enable more families to attend who typically leave for vacation during the summer.

Last year, the event raised about $50,000. Manley said she hopes to top that this year and in coming years.

Dee Wooley, who spoke at the 2018 Relay for Life, told the crowd about her journey with cancer, which began nearly seven years ago.

Wooley was getting ready to go on a cruise, but feeling abnormally fatigued, she decided to see a doctor before leaving the country on her vacation.

She went in for a well-being checkup and came out with a breast cancer diagnosis.

Wooley had a double mastectomy after returning home from the cruise, and she was thankful for the American Cancer Society for their research and events like Relay for Life that helped raise the money that allowed her to get the medication she needed.

Each event usually features games, vendors, food, live music and more. However, the Manley said the most impactful part of the night is honoring the cancer survivors and caregivers and remembering loved ones lost.

“We want to honor survivors but still keep everybody in our memory that we lost,” Manley said.

About 10 individuals are on the planning committee for the annual Relay for Life event, and about 15 teams typically participate in the event. About 200 people usually come out to the event, with even more donating and participating in fundraisers throughout the year.

“We hope to find a cure,” Manley said. “Until then, we have to make baby steps along the way.”

Manley said she hasn’t met one person whose life hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way.

“If they’re out there, they’re very lucky,” Manley said.

Each year, nearly 1,000 bags light the track at the Clark County event, signifying lives lost, and more than 100 survivors typically attend the event.

“It’s very dear to everybody’s heart,” Manley said.

For many, the Clark County Relay for Life chapter begets hope.

Even after 20 years, and among the many organizational changes, Manley the event is a continuing reminder to treasure life.

“It’s good to see the hope it brings people.” §

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0015.

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