Bobbi Jane Duke plans to wake up early Friday morning, scoop up breakfast and make her way to the field behind Five County Stadium by 9 a.m. at the latest.
There, she’ll join family members in setting up tents and signs, and torches for a memorial garden. All the while, she will be thinking about her father, Bobby Pace, and other family members and friends who have been affected by cancer.
“That’s the reason I do this,” Duke said of her 16-year involvement with the East Wake Relay for Life.
The ballpark gates will open at 5 p.m. Friday for the main event of the local American Cancer Society fundraiser, where participants won’t stop circling a track outlined by luminaria until Saturday morning.
The Relay is bound to prompt emotional moments despite its vibe being mostly upbeat. Duke, a Relay co-leader, knows both sides of that emotional spectrum, but she’ll perhaps be able to attest to it more than ever after Friday night.
Good clean fun
While Duke keeps loved ones on her mind Friday as she sets up her PACEr’s team booth for the 10th year, she will also have a hard time taking her mind off a swimming pool filled with cooked pasta noodles. She won’t know until that evening if she has to dive into one thanks to a fundraising challenge between herself and PACEr’s team co-captain Shannon Speller and Pirates of the CURE-ibbean co-captains Allison Klepchick and Kathe Schaecher that began March 1.
Neither pair of captains will know the status of their fundraising campaign until it is announced at the Relay.
“I’m saying I won’t have to do it, but you never know,” Duke said. “I would probably have to go home and take a shower, but Shannon and I were talking and we said we’re not going to have to. But, oh yes, I will be bringing extra clothes.”
The runners-up won’t only have to flop into the tub of fettuccine; they’ll be doing so to scour for crowns they will have to place on the heads of the victors.
“We have fun,” Duke said. “It’s a good family event that you can come out there and not have to spend a dime of money, but we of course want you to spend money because it all goes to cancer research. Once you come out there and see what it’s all about, I bet you’ll be back year after year.”
Duke said an incentive for longtime Relayers to return each year is getting to catch up with folks who have truly become family over the years.
“Some of these people you only get to see when you get out to Relay,” she said. “I’ve worked with the survivors so many years, and they’re so dear to my heart it’s almost like they are my children.”
Relay must go on
It isn’t easy staying up all night. But don’t tell that to Relay entertainment chair Becky Deitrick.
She’s organized fifteen themed “Crazy Laps” to help maintain movement on the track starting about midnight. They will include an egg and spoon lap, a jump rope lap, a three-legged race lap and a lampshade lap.
“We’ve got to do something to keep us awake,” Deitrick said. “If people are starting to fall asleep, we’ll make noise to wake everyone up. We’re just trying to have fun and stay walking all night.”
A lap will also be held in memory of Ellie Blaine in which teddy bears will be collected to later be delivered to children at UNC Cancer Center.
If You Go
The East Wake Relay for Life,
May 8-9 at Five County Stadium
5 p.m.: Gates open
5:30: Survivor reception at picnic shelter
6: Opening ceremonies
6:15: Survivors lap
6:45: The Rocky Cross Band
9: Luminaria ceremony
Midnight-3 a.m.: Crazy Laps
7:30 a.m.: Devotions
9 a.m.: Closing ceremonies