By LISA WHALEY
General Manager & Editor
This year, Jonesborough residents have big plans to “tell cancer off!”
And they’re hoping the community will join in.
“It’s a chance to tell our stories,” said Jessica Poff, of the upcoming Relay for Life, which will be held in Jonesborough on July 23. “And it’s a chance to say ‘Cancer has taken this from me. Let me tell you what cancer hasn’t taken.”
Poff is community representative for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and before that a longtime volunteer of the organization. She said she has seen over and over the devastation and loss that cancer can bring to the young, old and everyone in-between.
But she has also seen the hope, the help and the vital research ACS brings to the fight. And she has seen the tremendous courage of those battling cancer, as well as loved ones joining in the struggle.
It is these stories, she said, Relay is hoping to share.
“We started discussing the theme last year,” Poff said, adding that volunteers begin planning the next year’s Relay in August and September.
Organizers wanted to play off Jonesborough’s fame as a “Storytelling Capital,” as well as proudly proclaim their determination to defeat the disease.
“Tell Cancer Off” seemed perfect and soon became the theme for the 2016 Relay for Life, Jonesborough’s fourth.
The event, which will be held from 2-10 p.m. at the Storytelling Park, will feature information, booths, Relay teams and, of course, Jonesborough’s famous luminaries, which will be dedicated in part to volunteer Sandi Hartwick, who last her battle to cancer in the spring.
“Sandi was such an instrument, not only in getting Jonesborough started in Relay, but in continuing it,” Poff said. Hartwick loved the luminaries and all they expressed, she added.
These luminaries, objects that are used to remember loved ones lost to cancer and honor those battling the disease, will be a key feature at the 9 p.m. Relay for Life ceremony. Luminaries can be purchased for $5 per bag by visiting www.relayforlife.org/Jonesboroughtn, Jonesborough’s Relay for Life Facebook page or by contacting a volunteer.
“We’re working hard to make it special this year,” Poff said. “Luminaries are our personal favorite, and if you knew Sandi, you know how special it was to her.” This year, there will also be a new bag honoring caregivers.
Of course, you can’t “tell cancer off” without stories, and volunteers plan on providing ample opportunity for folks to tell their stories. Poff said a video recorder will be set up to encourage people to stop and share their experiences. These clips will eventually be collected for what Poff sees as being a truly powerful Relay piece.
As for the day itself, Poff encourages everyone to come to downtown Jonesborough on July 23 for a chance to join together in combating a disease that reaches nearly every corner, celebrating past successes and vowing to continue into the future.
It will, she promises, be well worth the visit. “It’s about community coming together and truly making a difference in the fight,” Poff said.
For more information about Jonesborough Relay for Life event, call Poff at 975-0635 or email her at [email protected]