Relay contributions top 2013, nears goal

May 8, 2014 4:49 PM

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CORNELIUS – Money is still coming in, but Relay For Life of Huntersville/Cornelius earned an estimated $70,000, beating last year’s amount by $16,000.

Residents took to the Bailey Road Park track May 2 to walk overnight in support of cancer patients and to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Marilyn Celenza and Colin Furcht spearheaded the event with other committee members.

According to the event’s website, the top fundraisers were the Cornelius CruZers, Team Furcht, Executive Women of Lake Norman and The McIntosh Law Firm.

During the Cornelius board meeting May 5, Town Clerk Lori Harrell, leader of the CruZers, said the event was life-changing for her and something she’s really felt called to do. She’s already recruiting members for next year’s team.

Funds goes to cancer research, as well as patient and family services, like helping someone get a wig, get them to an appointment or help them figure out what they are supposed to do.

“The community does Relay to support each other, remember loved ones and fight back,” Celenza said in her opening remarks.

She added that Relay takes place from sun down to sun up as a symbol of the road to recovery. After the initial diagnosis, the patient may go through dark times and must struggle with each treatment and step toward good health. But the sun comes up again with the promise of a new day.

“As I stand before you, the sun has risen again as I have a husband and two boys,” she said. “They truly make the world everything it is today.”

Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis welcomed attendees and shared his story of losing his father to cancer.

“He always had hope that they would find a cure, and they do now have a cure for the type of cancer my dad had,” Travis said. “We are doing an important thing that will give hope to win the battle.”

Joining the effort was Team Tee J. The team was established to celebrate Connie Pearson, who is a five-year cancer survivor and the grandmother to 16. But the team took new meaning when her daughter, Tracey DeBellis, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. DeBellis and her family attended May 2, manning a lemonade stand and facepainting booth.

“My daughter’s diagnosis was worse,” Connie said, breaking off. “I can go through everything, but I never wanted my children to go through it. My first husband died from cancer. I raised four kids by myself.”

Each year, she and her family have participated in Relay and other events.

Though some teams were for specific people, others were there to offer general support.

“It speaks of hope,” said Walmart Team Captain Nikki Steele. “We’ve all had members in our family who have had cancer. It’s touched all of us.”

Event organizers have not yet reached its goal of $72,000, but donations will be accepted until August. To donate, go to


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