Student & Alumna Partner to Bring Inaugural Relay For Life to GWU

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Blaire Teeters and Bryte Warrick Discuss Event Planning, Community Support

Luminaries at Spangler Stadium, GWU

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – The world’s largest grassroots fundraising movement, Relay For Life, mobilizes communities throughout the country to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and provide participants with an opportunity to fight back against the disease.  A Relay For Life event was held on the Gardner-Webb campus on Saturday, Nov. 2 from 8 p.m. to Midnight, in conjunction with a week’s worth of activities to raise awareness and help fund the cancer research programs.  Student Blaire Teeters (School of Nursing) and alumna Bryte Warrick (’08) spearheaded the effort and recently discussed the success of the project and plans for its continuation.

GWU:              Can you offer us some background information on how and why this event got started?

BLAIRE:          In October of last year, I was contacted (as the President of the Student Nurses Association-SNA) by Karissa Weir, Student Activities Director, about a possibility of getting Gardner-Webb involved in the Relay For Life organization.  Bryte, who initially emailed Karissa, took a shot in the dark, trying to make a dream a reality.  SNA is well-established with community service work and as nurses, it is only natural to be passionate about giving back.  Bryte and I began creating plans for this huge event, not sure if we could ever make it happen.  We worked alongside Karissa to figure out who we needed to contact to receive permission to create such an event.  Between the two of us, the majority of staff members at Gardner-Webb probably heard from us.  As January rolled around, our date and venue was officially reserved.  We took many baby steps during the spring and summer, but as soon as August hit, we were in full swing to spread the word.  I had no doubt that students would be willing to fight cancer; it was just a matter of raising awareness.

BRYTE:           This event started to stir back in the Fall of 2012.  I had sent Karissa Weir an email asking about the possible involvement of GWU in the Cleveland County Relay, or maybe even having a small relay of their own.  She put me in touch with Blaire Teeters from SNA and Blaire and I began to talk about this.  Blaire was really set on Gardner-Webb having their own event, so we started to put it in motion.

GWU:              Why you are both passionate about serving in this area?

BLAIRE:          We both share a passion in this organization.  I have many close family friends who have been fighting and it breaks my heart to see them physically struggle.  No one should ever be alone in this battle and this is why we rally a large community together and embrace those who have passed on and those who continue to fight.

BRYTE:           My involvement with Relay began about 15 or 16 years ago with my church.  We always took tents out to the fairgrounds in Shelby the night of the event, and we had so much fun staying up all night and walking around that track. Almost 5 years ago back in 2009, I joined the Survivor lap myself and really felt how special it is to be out there that night.  Nobody should ever have to fight Cancer.  Everybody’s story is different, everybody’s fight is different, but now that I’ve been down that road I will make it a point to help in the fight from now on.  I don’t wish the physical and emotional damage on anyone.  After this year I really got more involved on the Executive Committee for the Cleveland County event.  I have helped serve in recruiting new teams for the past three years now.

GWU:              Can you describe the support you received from the University and community?

Blaire Teeters

BLAIRE:          Bryte has been an active part of the Cleveland County’s Relay for Life for 3 years and this really contributed to the community involvement and encouragement.  We had 110% support from Cleveland County and couldn’t have done it without them.  The University was helpful in beginning to plan this event. We received some questionable looks when we were asked who was in charge of this and we answered, as a current student and an alum.  As Relay began to take form, more and more support followed and excitement grew.

BRYTE:           We really did receive quite a bit of support from the community the night of the event.  I honestly wasn’t sure what the turnout would be, but it was overwhelming.  It was so awesome to see so many students come, and people from the surrounding area as well.

GWU:              What did you learn from being a part of such a large undertaking?

BLAIRE:          I learned that such a large event could very easily be a full time job.  As a full-time nursing student, Relay For Life was a big undertaking but with delegation skills and willing volunteers, it was all possible.  I learned the importance of professional communication, timely planning and the art of flexibility.

BRYTE:           I learned quite a bit about working with people. You learn so much about how people are different and how to capitalize on one another’s strengths/weaknesses.

BLAIRE:          As a college student, this has truly enhanced my educational experience.  There is a choice in life to be active or passive.  I have never been one to sit back and watch life happen, I want to be involved.  Relay For Life is a huge accomplishment during my undergraduate experience and it has opened countless doors to my future.  I met so many influential people at Gardner-Webb and residents of Cleveland County that I would never have had the pleasure of working with.

GWU:              What were people’s responses/reactions to what you were doing before, during, and following the event?  

BLAIRE:          The reaction I received from Dr. Dee Hunt (cancer survivor and dean of students) encompasses the whole evening at Spangler Stadium.  As she walked in through the gates and embraced me, that hug said it all.  I felt thankfulness, passion and relief.  Students, children and adults were all joined together that night as one, in search of one cure, one fight and one victory.  Our generation of college students is the future.  We may be looked down upon because we are young but no one should ever doubt our ability.  We have passion, a heart and a spirit to fight, especially for our loved ones.  Gardner-Webb went above and beyond expectations and I physically felt the passion as I walked around the track during the survivor lap.

Bryte Warrick

BRYTE:           We really did receive quite a bit of support from the community the night of the event.  I honestly wasn’t sure what the turnout would be, but it was overwhelming.  It was so awesome to see so many students come, and people from the surrounding area as well.  I heard nothing but good remarks both before and after.  I think some were confused about what our event actually was.  I think some thought that it was a fundraiser “for” Relay For Life and not an actual Relay.  The Relay season is normally in the spring, but I have heard several tell me that they enjoyed having a Relay For Life in the “off” season.  I see it being successful for Gardner-Webb to continue doing this in the fall.  I have heard from students that it might be best to pick it during a certain football game next fall.

GWU:              Can you share your future plans and aspirations for another GWU Relay For Life event?

BLAIRE:          We have full intentions to continue this event and begin a yearly tradition under the lights of Spangler Stadium. We successfully raised over $21,000 and still have until August 31, 2014 to reach our $30,000 goal.  You can still join Gardner-Webb in the fight.  Donations can be paid at relayforlife.org

BRYTE:           For our first time doing an actual Relay walk, this was an awesome turnout from the school, public, and also an impressive amount of money that was raised prior and during the event.  I think next year can only be that much better and I look forward to seeing what happens with it!