Relay organizers stepping up night of family fun activities

Published 6:17 pm Friday, April 30, 2010

Cancer has hurt the family that makes up Opal’s Bunch.

Rain never has.

That’s why the whole team, including 11 members who are drivinginto Brookhaven all the way from Texas, are planning to stick itout at Friday night’s annual Relay for Life and strike a blowagainst cancer whether it’s raining or not. The forecast calls fora 30 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms for Friday night, butthere’s a 100 percent chance Opal’s Bunch will be walkingregardless.

“We’re going to stick it out unless there’s a tornado comingthrough,” said Margaret Glass, collections supervisor for King’sDaughters Medical Center and a member of Opal’s Bunch. “We’ve lostseveral loved ones and there’s several with (cancer) now, so we’refighting to find a cure. We’ve been there before when it rained,and we went on.”

To make the 2010 Relay for Life a success, others will have toadopt that team’s rain-or-shine attitude. Springtime events in theSouth tend to draw rain like hounds to the hunted, andprecipitation can be a killer for those activities.

“Rain scares people off, even if it’s misting. It affectseverything,” said Kathy Prospere, a community representative withthe American Cancer Society and organizer for the Lincoln Countyevent. “We’ll work with (the emergency management agency), and ifthey tell us to go home, we’ll go home. Those who have loved onesfighting cancer are going to be out there.”

The relay will begin in earnest at 6:45 p.m. Friday night withan opening ceremony at Brookhaven Exchange Club Park, and thesurvivors’ lap will kick off the walking at 7:15 p.m. The ExchangeClub will be selling tickets to its many kiddie rides, which willoperate from 7 until 10 p.m., and the luminaria service will beheld at 10 p.m. The relay, if all goes accordingly, will lastthroughout the night and into Saturday morning.

The registration-only survivors’ reception was held Thursdaynight.

The National Weather Service is predicting rounds of severethunderstorms and possible flash flooding beginning Fridayafternoon, with the most severe weather apparently set to followthe Natchez Trace Parkway. The Weather Channel is predicting a 40percent chance of rain Friday night.

The relay will stop for lightning and dangerous weather, but notrain, Propsere said.

“If anything changes weather-wise, we will make a decision by 3p.m. Friday to cancel the relay or move to a covered spot,” shesaid. “We’re just going to try not to think about that and beoptimistic.”

The Lincoln County Relay for Life last dealt with rain in 2008,when showers killed the buzz on Friday, forcing the event to bepostponed at 5:45 p.m., before it really ever got started. Theevent still raised more than $80,000 after being rescheduled toSaturday, but the kink left organizers wondering about what couldhave been, as only 14 of the 22 teams returned to raise money thenext day.

Prospere is calling on all the relay teams and all the familieswho planned to attend Friday night’s event to bring raincoats andbe strong. The 15 teams fundraising this year deposited about$31,000 Tuesday night, but that’s still far away from the event’s$80,000 goal. The teams need a well-attended relay to meet theirmark.

Anyway, Prospere has seen it all before. Sometimes threateningweather clears out fast and leaves clear skies behind.

“The most rain I’ve ever had was probably last year. It rainedat two events and stopped just before we got started and then itwas beautiful,” Prospere said. “At 5 p.m., we were sitting in ourcars waiting for the weather to stop, and then we were out andsetting up and had a beautiful event.”