by Brad Bess
Survivors, caregivers and supporters gathered at Christchurch School last Friday for Middlesex County’s Relay for Life and, despite threatening weather, hundreds showed up throughout the evening to show their love and support for those suffering from, or having suffered through, the pain of cancer.
Three hours prior to the official opening ceremonies, teams and individuals began preparing their booths and other designated areas. A Survivor Dinner also was being prepared in one of the school boardrooms by Millie Hampton.
Hampton epitomizes the volunteers who make the Relay a possibility. Being from a family that has battled cancer in many forms, Hampton finds joy in preparing food for others and has volunteered at the Relay for many years. She not only loves to cook, she loves to see the faces of satisfaction on the beneficiaries of her hard work.
When asked why she does it, Hampton simply replied that she believes in the program. “It is a joy for me to bring joy to people,” she said.
While about 20 survivors and caregivers were enjoying Hampton’s dinner, finishing touches were being made to the grounds outside for the opening ceremonies.
One of the men and women enjoying the survivor dinner was Brenda Hundley of West Point, who also was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremonies.
Hundley is a six-year breast cancer survivor. She is a published author who speaks at Relays for Life all over the state, sharing her words of experience and encouragement with others. Her first published piece was titled “My Journey,” and was printed in the Williamsburg Health Journal.
Hundley said that public speaking is a way for her to give back. She hopes she can inspire people to “have courage and be brave.” She understands this is often quite difficult without support—support she has been lucky enough to have for 39 years.
As Hundley sat quietly in a lawn chair waiting to rise for a congratulatory hug, her husband Larkin was at her side. Larkin has been of great support during his wife’s battle with cancer. Immediately following her inspirational and emotional speech, the two shared a sweet embrace before beginning to walk the track, hand-in-hand.
“I thank God for my wife and her surviving,” said Larkin.
After a couple of special survivor and caregiver laps, the sun set and activities began in full swing. Rides on miniature horses, face-painting and a bounce house were just a couple of activities set up for younger Relay participants. The local band “Rip Tide” began to play.
At 9 p.m., a special Caregiver Recognition Ceremony took place where all caregivers were thanked. Survivor Susan Fowler led an emotional speech where she recognized and thanked her caregivers, Marvin Fowler and Minnie Burch, as they stood by her side.
Drawing these people to this event is one tragic and underlying theme—cancer. However the mood of the event was anything but drab and self-pitying. It was full of excitement and enthusiasm, from young and old, survivors, caregivers and volunteers. Despite lives filled with such suffering and sadness, the Relay for Life of Middlesex seemed to be an event where hope and happiness were alive and well.