John and Lynda Williams drove down from Maryland Thursday to take part in the East Wake Relay for Life.
They had a good reason to form a team with other family members for the first time this year. Lynda said it was what her sister, Faye Bizzell, would have wanted them to do. Bizzell passed away April 25th after an 8-year battle with cancer.
“I wanted to represent Faye,” Lynda Williams said. “She’s such a special lady, you can’t let it go to the wayside. It honors my sister. I felt needed and I could do something one more time for my sister.”
Bizzell first participated in the local Relay in 2012. She beamed as she helped lead the Survivor Lap that year.
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Relayers sang Happy Birthday to Bizzell at the start of the two-day event on Friday. She would have turned 71 that day.
Bizzell’s daughter, Kim Hayworth of Knightdale, and her daughter-in-law Genny Smith, of Wake Forest, organized Team Faye Bizzell for the Relay. The family team sold coffee, cookies and hot chocolate but witnessed the strongest demand for the funnel cakes the Williamses fried and plated well into the night Friday.
“She was a cook and a half, she would’ve been right here,” Lynda said of her sister. “She was a very Christian lady, a fighter, and would say ‘come on let’s take (cancer) on.’ ”
Williams said people don’t realize how many others have been affected by cancer until it hits close to home. She said Relay for Life helps those people and their family members realize there is another family within the community that offers comfort and encouragement.
“Everyone knows (what it means) when you say Relay for Life and I think it’s beautiful,” Williams said. “You put a lot of time and money into it but we got it back 100 times more in a spiritual way. It moved me.”
The Relay Challenge
The pinnacle of what has been a particularly energetic Relay year got off to a meager start as dark clouds hovered over Five County Stadium.
“The clouds we had between 4-5 p.m., regretfully, we feel prohibited some of our survivors from attending that we typically have there,” Relay chairwoman Vickie Curtis said. “We still had a good crowd even though we know some people didn’t make it out.”
Curtis said despite numbers not being what they have been before, Relay was very much alive.
“Relay was rocking,” she said. “People did take the Relay challenge. We had quite a few first timers and some new survivors.”
Attendance picked up a bit as the sky cleared before sunset and stayed steady through the luminary ceremony. It never rained a drop, making conditions ideal for Relay teams to what they do best to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s research and family support programs.
One of Deborah Nixon’s greatest successes of the day cost her two locks of her fiery red hair. The Zebulon United Methodist Church team member agreed to go under the clippers but only once $1,000 was raised. That arrangement left her with $1,017 and a fresh buzz.
Nixon has donated her hair to cancer survivors for years, ever since one of her friend’s children was diagnosed with a rare leukemia.
“It’ll grow back,” she said. “I’ve lost several close friends to cancer, one this past year. I hope one day we have a cure, and that’s what this is for.”
The 22 teams had raised just more than $111,000 by the close of the Relay. This year’s goal is $114,500. Event leaders believe that mark will be reached or surpassed by the end of the Relay year, Aug. 31.
“Our Relayers believe we will (reach the goal) because we have two major fundraisers left and new teams have joined recently,” Curtis said.