Dawn Hodge wears many hats. Most regulars of North Ocean City’s Original Greene Turtle would probably recognize her from there, at the restaurant she manages on 116th street, but cancer survivors, and the friends and family of cancer survivors in north Worcester county, probably know her from somewhere else: the local Relay For Life chapter, which she’s been a co-chair of since 2006.
Relay For Life had already been happening in Worcester County for about five years when Hodge started as her chapter’s accounting chair. She got involved as a way to honor and remember her dad, who died of liver and gallbladder cancer when she was 27.
“We just didn’t question it, we did exactly what he wanted, which was to do nothing,” she said. “So we didn’t push him to try and do anything, and he never left the hospital since he found out he had [cancer].”
Relay is the American Cancer Society’s signature event. North Worcester County’s chapter hosts one every year, as well as year-round fundraising events in Ocean City and the surrounding regions. Cancer survivors, their caregivers and anyone who has been affected by cancer can find a network of support through Relay for Life and its offshoot events, just as Hodge has since her father’s passing.
“I had no one to turn to, besides my family, but no one with any knowledge beyond what to do,” she said. “I really feel like if I had the Cancer Society to turn to and ask, call that 800 number even, we might have done something different. I don’t know if it would’ve made a difference or not, but you never know — he could have lived a longer life.”
Oceans of Hope at the next Relay
North Worcester County’s 2018 Relay For Life event will take place on May 11 at Frontier Town in Berlin, MD, just outside Ocean City. The Original Greene Turtle is a sponsor, of course, along with the likes of Frontier Town, Atlantic General Hospital, Peninsula Regional Medical Center and others. Hodge has gotten some of her employees involved on Team Greene Turtle, and even the restaurant’s owner Steve Pappas is involved.
The first-ever Relay For Life took place in 1985 in Tacoma Park, Washington, when colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt ran around a track by himself for 24 hours and raised $27,000 in the process. Today, Relay For Life is the largest cancer fundraising event in the world and raises funds across the U.S. and beyond for cancer-related research, education, advocacy and patient services.
North Worcester County’s upcoming Relay will be held at Frontier Town’s campgrounds, where teams will start registering at 4 p.m., the opening ceremonies will start at 6 p.m. and activities including live music, bingo, a scavenger hunt and raffles will last until midnight. From 6 p.m. to midnight, “there’s something going on constantly,” Hodge said, and at some point between midnight and morning a big bonfire will be held.
A track will be mapped out around the campground, where teams will walk laps all night long. Cancer survivors will take the first lap of the night, followed by caregivers like Hodge taking the second lap, teams on the third lap and sponsors on the fourth. Each team will have at least one person walking the track throughout the night because, according to Relay, “Cancer patients don’t stop because they’re tired, and for one night, neither do we.”
The theme of this year’s Relay is Oceans of Hope, and after a year of hard work spent planning, fundraising and throwing events, Hodge just hopes the event isn’t rained out as it has been the past two years.
“That morning we’ll all get together and go to Frontier Town, and we’ll decorate and put up signs, we usually decorate to our theme so we have lots of fun beach-y stuff that we’re going to decorate with,” Hodge said. “It’s just fun.”
Should there be inclement weather, the Relay will take place at Stephen Decatur Middle School. Rain or shine, local cancer survivors and their families know they have somewhere to turn to for resources and community support.