Nelson Relay For Life – Looks For Home To Permanently Place National Award

Photo Courtesy of Amber Drumheller : This recently awarded plaque to the Nelson Relay For Life is still looking for a permanent home.

By Jennie T. Williams

Nelson County, VA

Saturday (May 5) marked the 4th annual Nelson County Relay For Life, an event so well-known and well-respected in Nelson County, that last year, the community raised more than $127,000 and earned the recognition of one of the top ten fundraising communities nationwide (per capita). In recognition of that honor, the American Cancer Society presented the Nelson County Relay For Life organizing team with three plaques (one large and two small).

“We were extremely thrilled,” said this year’s Event Chair, Amber Drumheller, a Lovingston Attorney. “We knew we raised a lot of money last year, but we had no idea it would get a national award.” This year the totals are still coming in.

It included 483 Participants, 33 Teams, and $102,789 raised with more donations being added daily according to the organization’s local web page.

She said that the reason Nelson does so well in support of the American Cancer Society and the Relay For Life is simply because of the tight-knit community.

“I think we do really well because we are a small community,” she said. “Through word of mouth, people can incorporate their friends and family and coworkers. Since we are such a small community, everyone wants to come together to support a common goal. Everybody’s been touched by cancer in some way – everybody knows somebody who’s been struck by cancer.”

Amber and the rest of the committee felt that because the community earned the plaques, the plaques should be placed in the community. One of the small plaques is currently being showcased at the Blue Ridge Medical Center, and other small one is currently still looking for a home, as is the large one. The Committee thought the largest plaque might be best suited in a community-owned location – like the County Courthouse. But they were surprised to be denied the chance to display it there.

Above, the denial letter the local Nelson Relay chapter received after a request to place the plaque in the Nelson County Courthouse. Click on the image to view larger.

“We were disappointed and frustrated,” said Amber, who, as an attorney, is in the courthouse frequently. “We do want all the citizens of Nelson to know how successful our community has been. I was expecting them to say yes.”

While the County Board of Supervisors denied the request, County Administrator Stephen Carter insisted that it was in no way a decision made with the intention to discredit the Relay For Life’s accomplishments.

“Certainly the County recognizes how great an honor this is and how great a job they did,” said Stephen, who mentioned there is no official policy about showcasing awards in the County Courthouse. “The board just thought [the plaque] should be somewhere else other than the Courthouse.”

He suggested perhaps the Nelson Center, and added that he and his family have participated in the Relay For Life for several years.

The Relay For Life is a free community event held annually. For more information, please visit


  1. I’d like to believe that this decision was made in haste and that our county officials will reconsider. A quick google search will bring up many examples of local governments displaying community awards, art by local students or other civic awards. One recent example occurred in neighboring Campbell County. The excerpt from the memo reads as follows:

    The Campbell County Relay for Life received a National Award for the 2011 event for
    being the 7th highest Relay in the Nation in fundraising per capita for a community our
    size. Mr. and Mrs. Wright would like to present the Board with the plaque and request it
    be placed alongside the existing award located in the Citizen Services Building.


    Staff recommends the Board recognize Kevin and Donna Wright and receive the award
    plaque. It would be appropriate for the Board to grant permission to change the light
    bulbs on the County buildings to purple bulbs during the week of the Relay for Life and
    authorize maintenance personnel to assist them toward that endeavor.

    Three cheers for County Administrator, David Laurrell!!


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