CAMBRIDGE — Dorchester County Relay for Life celebrated its 20th annual walk event on Friday, May 20, at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School.

Survivors, caregivers, families, and community members walked around a make-shift track in the school parking lot, lined with the luminaries honoring those lost to cancer, those who have fought cancer, and those who are still fighting.

At the opening ceremony, a moment of silence was held for those who lost their battle with cancer in the year since the last Relay for Life event. After, the names of the participating survivors were announced and everyone cheered as they took the first lap around the track.

Later in the evening, the luminaries were lit in ceremony and a slideshow of pictures encompassing the past twenty years of Relay events was shown.

In its 20th year, Dorchester Relay for Life has raised more than $2 million to fund the fight against cancer through research, treatment and guidelines for cancer screening tests. Its fundraising goal for 2016 was $90,000 and they exceeded the goal by $4,500 before the walk even began.

When the Dorchester Relay for Life was established in 1997, thirty teams participated in the event that year, fifty cancer survivors were honored with the first survivor’s lap, and over $52,000 was raised. In 2016, five of the original thirty teams still participates: Bank of the Eastern Shore, Dorchester County Health Department, Lions Club, Sandy Hill Elementary School and Weber Grillers.

“Over the years the Dorchester Relay for Life has been recognized both regionally and nationally for our in-kind development,” said Gail Skinner, volunteer chairman of the Relay Committee. “In 2000, we were recognized as one of the ten highest fundraising relays in our population and per capita group. One of our biggest fundraising years was 2004 when we raised over $150,000.”

Dorchester Relay for Life has come up with some pretty innovative fundraising ideas in addition to the walk event, including flocking yards with pink flamingos and a woman-less beauty pageant. Other fundraising endeavors include bake sales, car washes, auctions, bingo games, raffles and more.

“You would think we would run out of fundraising ideas, Skinner said. “We knew that we were making a difference and forged ahead to help raise funds in an effort to find a cure for this dreaded disease.”

One of the biggest community supporters is Foxwell’s Auction. Each year they sponsor four weeks of Relay auctions in late March and early April with every bit of money raised going to support the Relay event. The items bringing in the most money are surprisingly the baked goods. Pies and cakes can go for over $200 and $300.

“This year was amazing and our best year ever,” Skinner said. “We raised over $17,000 in four weeks with Buddy and Shane Foxwell cheering us on.”

This year’s participants blew the fundraising goal out of the water as they raised over $113,000 — well over the $90,000 that was anticipated.

“Relay Committee has been forever touched by the generosity and goodwill of our community,” Skinner said.

The list of local business sponsors was long and included: Signiture Health Care at Mallard Bay, Foxwell’s Auctions, VFW Post 7460, Pep-up, Tri-Gas and Oil, Cambridge-South Dorchester High School, John W. Tieder Inc., St. Paul’s UMC, DJ Dave, Zeller Funeral Home, Harmon’s Septic Care, AIM Transport, Choptank River Golf and Events Center, Thomas Funeral Home, M&T Bank, the Nathan Foundation, Whalen Company, Pepsi-Cola, Dorchester Auto Sales, Shore Waste, Hopper, Paul Harrison, Craig’s Drug Store, Cambridge International, Protenergy, Whitten Insurance, Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, Bay Country Security, Simmon’s Center Market, 1880 Bank, Glen Ruark, Boomer’s Process Service, Rescue Fire Company, R. Brooks and Son, Nurturing Hands, E.S. Hubbard and Son, Maryland Healthy Weights, State Farm Megan Holotik, Chesapeake Utility Corp, The Copy Shoppe.

Follow me on Twitter @victoriadorstar and on Instagram @dorchester.star.

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