Relay for Life tops $500K despite Friday night storm

A group of young cancer survivors break through the banner to open this year’s Bay Area Relay for Life at Stallworth Stadium on Friday. Heavy rains forced the event to be shut down at 9 p.m.

BAYTOWN — The Bay Area Relay for Life, a time to celebrate those who fought the good fight against cancer and to remember those who have lost the battle had another opponent this past weekend: the weather.

With dark clouds hovering, the Relay’s opening ceremony began shortly after 6 p.m. with a butterfly release and opening lap by survivors. Survivors, both young and old alike, each wearing a medal around their necks, walked the track to cheers, claps and yells of support. Within hours, however, thunderstorms came through literally “raining on the parade” of the thousands of walkers on the track. More than 150 teams participated this year.

As team members walked the track they cold not miss colored bags lining the track, each with a candle inside and bearing the name in honor of a cancer survivor or in memory of a person lost to cancer. More than 4,000 of the luminary were sold this year, topping the $70,000 goal the relay committee had set.

At 9 p.m. the candles were supposed to be lit. Mother Nature had other plans. Organizers decided that the weather was too bad to continue and shut down the event, rather than wait until 8 a.m. the following morning as planned. Event organizers say that this is the first time in the Bay Area Relay For Life’s 12-year history than the luminary ceremony had to be canceled.

The shortened event also hurt teams who planned to continue their fundraising throughout the event, whether it be Cedar Bayou United Methodist Church’s crawfish boil or Grace United Methodist’s raffle for a basket of “tunes” and two handmade crochet throws.

An estimated $570,000 was turned in on the day of the relay, about $200,000 short of the committee’s goal. However, more funds are expected to be turned in over the next week. Allison Selensky, of Grace UMC, said they continued to sell raffle tickets at the church on Sunday in order to raise more funds for the relay.

The Bay Area Relay for Life has been the top fundraising relay in Texas for the past eight years. Organizers say they will just have to wait and see if it will be nine in a row or not. The rain also caused some trouble for volunteers leaving the event site. Those who arrived early to set up their camps on Friday parked in a grassy field. The rain, however, turned the field into a mud pit that forced many cars to become stuck and left over night.