For Terry, involvement in Relay is a personal matter

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2003

When it comes to celebrity status, Tonya Terry has it,

As co-host of WSFA's "Today in Alabama" morning show and a TV news anchor, Terry is a familiar face, not only in her hometown of Troy, but all across the TV's viewing area.

Terry was the emcee of Friday night's 2003 Relay for Life event and openly admitted that it was her first Pike County Relay.

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Her first Relay event was in Montgomery last Friday.

"I have known about Relay for Life for a long time but never felt a need to participate," she said. "Now, that has changed. Cancer has hit close to home."

A member of Terry's family was diagnosed with cancer three months ago. Now, finding a cure for this disease is a top priority for her.

That's why she enthusiastically agreed to emcee the Pike County Relay for Life event even though she had been on the job since 4 o'clock Friday morning.

"The atmosphere here is unbelievable," Terry said. "I was already connected to the community by my neighbors. Now, I'm connected through a cause. Here, I am surrounded by people I know and love. It's like one big happy family. I know that I'm in the right place.

"And, I now understand why I've heard so much about Pike County in connection with Relay for Life."

Terry said that everywhere she goes in Montgomery, people are talking about Pike County.

"Pike County is a small county but, last year the Relay teams raised more than$200,000," she said. "That's a lot of money. That put Pike County fourth in the nation per capita. Pike County is setting the standard for other counties and they are trying to catch up with Pike County. That speaks volumes for our people."

Terry participated in Relay from start until finish and was impressed from start to finish.

"I have seen people with survivors medals on and I had no idea that they have had cancer," she said. "They are full of life and having fun. It gives you hope for those you love who are battling the disease."

Terry said there were some inspirational and moving moments at Relay, but for the most part it was a festive occasion.

"I think that's good because, seeing all of the survivors out here having a good time, cancer doesn't seem so scary," she said. "But we all know that we're fighting a killer and this is a serious battle. But spirits are high and you come away believing that we will win."

Fighting cancer has become a top priority in Terry's life.

She has agreed d to be in Montgomery's

"Biggest Rat" contest, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.

On June 13, Terry will host a disco party at the Embassy Suites and sell tickets for the event.

"The Embassy offered to provide me with a room for the disco party," she said. "It made me so happy that I cried."

Terry said there will be no alcoholic beverages allowed so people of all ages can participate.

The music will be from the 1970s and 1980s.

"The music from those decades did a lot to bridge the gaps that existed in those time," she said. "I hope it will be able to help bridge the gap that exists between cancer and a cure."

In 2002, Montgomery's Biggest Rat raised more than $30,000 for the ACS.

"That's a lot," Terry said, laughing. "But the most that's ever been raised my a person from the media is $12,000 and I'm going to blow that away."

Terry walked away from Pike County's Relay for Life with increased hope for a full recovery for her loved one and all others who are victims of the disease.

"Cancer is killing too many people," she said. "We must keep raising money to stay in the fight. We must find a cure, whatever the cost."