April was a fantastic month for Relay For Life. On Wednesday, April 19, we gathered at County Seat to celebrate all that founder Sharon Pike did for Powhatan Relay For Life. Along with Sharon’s family and pharmacy family were many prior Relay leaders, American Cancer Society staff members, and relayers. A picture of Sharon, with a tribute written by Jessica Groover, was hanging at the American Cancer Society (ACS) office before COVID. Our prior ACS staff partner, Amy Swartz, took this for safekeeping, and it will now be hanging at the County Seat for all to see.
While planning this event, I communicated with many people over the past few months. I want to share a thought from Sharon’s sister-in-law, Vicki Pike Jarratt, who could not attend the gathering: “There are no words to tell you how much I loved Sharon... I was the one that organized the first “Pike’s Pack” in Mechanicsville the year before. At the time, Sharon had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. The first year we had 42+ walkers and raised $5,000. The following year was when Pike’s Pack moved to Powhatan. I’ll always remember the overwhelming support we received. Sharon was loved by all.”
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Sherry Means, the ACS staff partner when Sharon started Relay For Life of Powhatan, shared, “Sharon was a special person who took her illness and used it to open the conversation about cancer. Her position as a pharmacist gave her more insight into her community. Her spirit was infectious, and we all loved that about her. I remember that first event pitching my tent on the old high school field, the luminaries around the field, and her amazement at how it brought the community together. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
When Sharon started Relay in 1996, I don’t know if she realized the impact it would have on so many people in our community. She lives on in all of us who have followed in her footsteps. Our American Cancer Society staff partner, Stephanie Pugh, shared, “I can’t think of a better week to honor Sharon than National Volunteer Week. Before our office closed during COVID, we had pictures highlighting some outstanding volunteers and events over the years. I’ve looked at Sharon’s picture thousands of times over the 12 years I was in the office and was constantly reminded, “Wow, this all started with one volunteer dedicated to making a difference, and look at what it’s become.” The Relay For Life of Powhatan started in 1996 and has raised over $3.1 million since then. The dollars raised have helped move cancer research forward, provided free programs and services for cancer patients and their families, and allowed us to advance education and prevention.
This month, I was also invited to the Powhatan Leadership Institute to share some information on Relay For Life. It was great connecting with other community non-profits, and I look forward to speaking at some of their events as well.
On Saturday, April 22, we held a dinner for survivors, the reason we Relay. This was catered by Olive Garden in Midlothian and was served by event leadership and family. In addition to the meal, there were homemade desserts by the event leadership. Some survivors shared their stories, and everyone there had a great time. This annual event got postponed during COVID, and we were grateful to bring it back this year.
To learn more about this year’s event, please check out our website at www.RelayForLife.org/SOJ and follow us on social media on Facebook (@rflsoj) and Instagram (@rflsouthofthejames). Through these channels, you can join our FUNdraising events. If your business would like to participate in Relay with a team and/or business sponsorship, please contact me, Pat Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We invite everyone to join us at Relay For Life South of the James on June 10, 2023, from 4-10 p.m. at Powhatan High School.