East Wake Relay for Life team leaders convey similar messages

amoody@newsobserver.comMay 26, 2014 

  • East Wake Relay for Life

    Friday, May 30-31

    Gates Open: 5 p.m.

    Opening Ceremony: 5:50 p.m.

    Survivor Lap: 6:15 p.m.

    Luminary Ceremony: 9 p.m.

    Crazy Laps: Midnight-6 a.m.

    Devotions: 7:30 a.m.

    Closing Ceremony: 8:40 a.m.

— Some of the East Wake Relay for Life’s top fundraising teams are led by people who don’t have cancer.

Like almost everyone, however, those team leaders know someone who has, or has had, the disease. While they haven’t been personally affected they say it’s felt personal enough. It’s led them to take on key roles in the local fight against cancer.

Now in her 15th year with the local Relay, Bobbi Jane Duke is one of those leaders. She and her cousin Shelli McInnis co-captain the PACEr’s Relay team.

Duke first got involved through a friend at a time when her tie to the disease was not as direct as it eventually became. But she and family members stuck with the cause and formed the PACEr’s crew about 10 years ago. Duke’s father, Bobby Pace, died of cancer two years later.

“That’s was very big part of it,” Duke said of what has motivated her involvement with Relay. “It was just one of those things with my dad, I promised him before he died that we would continue the Relay team and maybe one day find a cure.”

The disease has continued to hit close to home for Duke over the years. She had several aunts and uncles and friends diagnosed. It’s left her feeling like she has to try and do something about it.

“Cancer is really in my family,” she said, “and a lot of people on my team are survivors now. I just hope one day there’s a cure for it and we don’t have to worry about this anymore.”

Helping fund the American Cancer Society’s research for that cure is something the PACEr’s have become quite good at. The team’s main annual fundraiser is a spaghetti dinner at Wakefield Central Baptist Church. This year, the team added another revenue generator by compiling and selling cookbooks featuring homemade recipes.

Keeping it light

Another East Wake Relay team, Pirates of the CURE-ibbean, has made a big mark on the fundraising scene in a short amount of time.

Team co-captain Allison Klepchick has been involved with the local Relay since 2006, but helped form the Pirates crew in 2011. Living up to their name, the Pirates are known for creating a stir. They’re even known to dress up like Pirates and make mock pirate ships for Relay.

“It’s a great group of people, it’s for a good cause,” Klepchick said. “Everybody in the world has been affected by cancer in some way, whether friends or family, or whatever. It’s so big, and this is something little I can do to help.

“And I like to make people do crazy things. It’s for my own entertainment, really.”

Their single-most lucrative event was a womanless beauty pageant in 2012. They’ve held two adult proms, one of which was the team’s most booming event this Relay year. The events have helped get new faces involved with cause, Klepchick said.

The Pirates also hold an annual breast cancer awareness month drive called “Pink October.” During that month, Klepchick sells pink hair extensions, pink lemonade and about everything pink imaginable at her beauty salon in Wendell and at the Wendell Harvest Festival for the last two years.

The team’s dunk tank is a favorite at Relay. People can donate money to have another person put in the tank, to get themselves out of the tank, or to get insurance eliminating the possibility of someone else sending them in for a dunking. Keeping in line with this year’s Olympic-themed Relay, the Pirates are bringing in a jumbo boxing ring this year.

‘That did it for me’

In the beginning, Klepchick said there was no real reason she joined the local Relay other than wanting to be a part of something in the community. She was recruited by another Relay leader, Sheila Prosser, and eventually branched off to form Pirates of the CURE-ibbean with friend Kathe Anderson.

Since she’s been a part of Relay, Klepchick has lost friends and family to cancer. “So now I have a real reason,” she said.

Klepchick was hooked within the first 30 minutes of her first Relay experience, after observing cancer survivors kick off the event with an opening lap around the track outlined by luminaries.

“That’s what did it for me, to see some that have been fighting cancer for 50 years, that did it for me,” she said. “You just feel part of something and it feels good.”

Duke says Relay will do the same for anyone who heads out to the field behind Five County Stadium this Friday and Saturday. The gates open Friday at 5 p.m.

“There’s something about going and being there and seeing all the survivors and what everyone’s doing,” Duke said. “It will humble you and it will make you want to come back.”

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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