Relay For Life, more than just a walk

Last Updated on


Morgan Tyner

Cancer will affect you, or someone you know, in your lifetime.  For a Radford University student, Thomas Smals, cancer has affected three family members and many people in his hometown of Lexington, but through his heartache, he has turned it into something productive and inspiring.

Smals, a junior who is majoring in Parks, Recreation and Tourism, coordinated this year’s Relay for Life event in Radford on April 13, from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m, at the Radford Recreation Center, to raise money for those affected by cancer in the local area.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and this was my opportunity to do so,” Smals said, who has been involved in Relay for Life for 12 years. “Our money that we raise actually stays in Radford.”

According to State Cancer Registry and the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries Cancer Surveillance System from a 2004-2008 report over 50 people are diagnosed with cancer in the City of Radford and over 34,000 are diagnosed every year in Virginia.

All the money raised from the event goes directly to people who have cancer in the community. The money can cover costs of treatments, surgery and even drivers who take patients to and from their chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

The main relay is not the only event that is being held for raising money.  The Radford EMS Relay for Life Team started a “fun(d)raiser” by putting a purple toilet in peoples’ and businesses’ yards around town. For a fee of $25 you can remove the toilet and put it in your neighbor’s yard.

Another fundraising event is being held on April 10 at 6 p.m. at the Radford Recreational Center called “Bank Night” will bring in a lot of donations. “Bank Night” is a meeting for all the team leaders to drop off their donations. Anyone can come to this event and donate whether you are in a team or not. There will be pizza, cookies and drinks provided for participants. Smals and the rest of the Relay members hope that this night will bring in many donations as well.

Smals has also promised if the donations reach up to $30,000 on “Bank Night,” he will dye his hair purple, if they reach $45,000 participants can pie him in the face, and if the number exceeds his projected amount and reaches $55,000, he will shave his head.

The Relay fundraising has already reached $24,271, along with 49 teams and over 600 participants.

“We raised $38,000 last year and this year our goal is $45,000,” Smals said.
In the past Radford was a $130,000 event and Smals is hoping to make that number a reality again by doing everything he can.

“I understand that there were some disputes between the college aspect and the community aspect,” Smals said. “But we’re trying to bring them back together and work for this cause,” Smals said.

Last year’s event only had one vendor, but this year Smals made sure that this event will be a great time. He has booked BTO’s, Taco Inn, Domino’s, and Atmos Energy will be cooking hamburgers.

The Relay, which will be held inside, will also include fun for college students and fun for families. Two bands, two competitive dance teams and one solo artist will be entertaining the crowd. There will also be special guests from the local municipalities, including an appearance from the local firedog.

“And there will be the biggest bounce house that I could find,” Smals added.
It is recommended that participants bring pillows, blankets, a pop-up tent or a pop-up canopy in case participants want to get some rest since it’s an all-night event. Relay participants who bring a tent can enter in the “campsite contest” for the best set up.

Although the deadline for teams was March 23, it doesn’t matter. Anyone can make a team at anytime. “The main cutoff is the main event,” Smals said.

Teams can sign up anytime at and they can be an unlimited number.  There are many teams with only one member and the Carter Street United Methodist Church Young United Methodists’ Team has 95 members.
On the night of the Relay, the Opening Ceremony starts at 6 p.m, and there will be a Survivor Lap at 6:10 p.m. The Survivor Lap is one walk around the

Recreation Center for those who had cancer or who are still fighting the battle.
The next ceremony is called the Luminaria Ceremony and will be held at 9 p.m. This is also called the Remembrance Ceremony. Candles are lit with the names written of those who have been affected by cancer or have lost their battle with cancer and one lap in silence.

Fight Back Ceremony is the last ceremony and will be held at 5:30 a.m. Fight Back is about taking action and promising to make a personal commitment to fight against cancer. Whether it is quitting smoking, exercising more, getting screened for cancer, or spreading awareness of the disease.

“There’s so much to do. There’s no hour where you’ll have nothing to do,” Smals explained.

Like “Relay for Life of Radford” on Facebook, start a team at or email Smals at

“It’s so easy to get involved,”Smals said.