FRANKLIN COUNTY — Danette Cheatham of Wake Forest had already been volunteering with Franklin County Relay For Life when she lost her grandmother to bone cancer. And it made her work all the harder.
She’s a self-proclaimed workaholic who loves to volunteer and help people.
“It’s my passion,” she said.
Her dedication and efforts led her team, Concord Missionary Baptist Church out of Kittrell, to be one of the top fundraising teams at this year’s Franklin County Relay For Life to benefit the American Cancer Society. Following her passion also encouraged her to take on the role as one of this year’s Relay co-chairs.
Cheatham first became involved with Relay For Life by volunteering to help with her church’s team under its previous captains.
When they decided they were getting too old to continue, they passed the torch to her and she has served for nearly 10 years.
“A couple years later, I lost my grandmother to cancer and she didn’t know she had it,” Cheatham said. “I continue to volunteer to save more lives.”
But she doesn’t do it alone. This year, her church raised less than $200 shy of $10,000, though the members have until July 31 to make up the difference.
“Our team goal was $6,000, but we already passed that, so we raised it to $10,000,” Cheatham said during the May 17 event.
She attributes the influx to “creative fundraising” and the neverending support from her fellow church members.
“It’s amazing how much people are doing,” Cheatham said. “Some don’t have jobs but are willing to give money so we were able to exceed our (initial) goal.”
Some of the team’s top events are baby pageants, Easter basket sales and a rainbow tea. She also garnered more sponsorships than usual this year.
She even gets her parents, Mildred and Cornelius, to help out the night of Relay, cooking up turkey, chicken and other dishes to the sell to participants.
“They love to cook and enjoy helping out,” Cheatham said.
When she first started, Cheatham said she had trouble getting people to walk from 1 to 6 a.m. So she and her uncle, Phillip Perry, would trade off in two-hour shifts.
“I enjoy being with Danette and decided to help her,” Perry said of his willingness to pull the long hours. “It’s a good cause. I’m blessed to help. It’s a mixture of family, tradition and church, and I have a good time doing this.”
Now that she has enough walkers, her uncle can sit back for a bit, plus she has the help of other volunteers who just want to take part.
Emma Hobbs is kitchen director at the church and was there helping to cook at the tent.
“I help her and she helps me,” Hobbs said. “It’s worth coming back to. It’s quite a worthy cause and we’ve lost quite a few members to cancer.”
Viola Perry is another longtime member of the team. In fact, she remembers walking with Relay when it was held at Louisburg College.
“It means a lot because it helps a good cause,” she said. “So many people died of cancer — family members and church family.”
Viola Perry said she enjoys helping Cheatham because she “puts her whole self into it, which makes it great.”
In addition to having a team, Concord Missionary Baptist Church leads the sunrise service.
At the end of the Franklin County Relay For Life, all of the teams had raised nearly $121,000 of their $142,000 goal. Fundraising continues through July 31.