The loss of a family friend to cancer prompted a local Relay for Life team to add a new element to its fundraising arsenal for the 2014 event.
That friend, Ellie Blaine, had yet to turn 3 years old when she passed away last December of a rare form of brain cancer. Becky Deitrick’s Relay Roadrunners crew responded by holding a teddy bear lap in memory of Blaine at the event in Zebulon in May.
Through the lap, the Roadrunners amassed 56 teddy bears that were delivered to UNC Cancer Center July 22 to be dispersed strictly to young cancer patients.
“It brings a smile to their face when they’re having a hard day or going through side effects of chemo or surgery,” said Deitrick, a Roadrunners co-captain. “It just gives them something to hold onto and not think about cancer. Anything to do to make their day a little bit bearable.”
Deitrick, now a Clayton resident, started the Relay Roadrunners four years ago when she lived in Knightdale and like many Relayers she has a close understanding of the hardships of cancer. She lost her father to cancer when she was 14, both her sisters have had the disease and it has taken its toll on several others in her family.
East Wake Relay for Life Chairwoman Vickie Curtis said Deitrick’s initiative toward supporting the youngest of patients gave her unit a fresh perspective of its overall mission.
“When Becky initially mentioned this, to have a teddy bear lap, we all kind of turned our heads and said, ‘Hey, that’s a really good idea,’ ” Curtis said. “It gave us an opportunity to tangibly provide something for cancer patients.
“Yes, we raise money for cancer research, which is extremely important, but to be able to raise something tangible brought it to a more personal level.”
Deitrick says this is just the start. “We’re going to make this an annual thing in honor of Ellie,” she said.
The goal for the 2015 Relay year is to collect 75 teddy bears to be dropped off at the same place for the same cause.
Finishing the race
The local Relay is in its final push, facing an Aug. 31 fundraising deadline that is essentially the 2014 Relay’s finish line.
As of Friday, East Wake Relay had raised $116,063. The goal for this year was $114,500.
“We have just really been flabbergasted by the outpouring from our community and the support that has allowed us to raise (this amount) and far surpass our goal,” Curtis said. “As teams, we have talked about how this year seemed like we had new energy, but when we realize we have passed our goal by $1,500 it has sparked a new level of energy as we close one year and prepare to move into a new season.”
Those interested in making a donation are still encouraged to do so by contacting a team member or visiting relayforlife.org/eastwakenc.