Luminaria will shine across Charlotte as neighbors unite against cancer

American Cancer Society stands together even when we’re apart

Luminaria will shine across Charlotte as neighbors unite against cancer

COVID-19 has grounded the American Cancer Society’s events and community organizing, slicing annual fundraising efforts in half. In lieu of large events and to ensure safety, the Society is seeking individuals to volunteer and sell luminaria in every community across the state.

North Carolinians will join together on Sept. 20 and light these decorative keepsake bags in homes and neighborhoods to remember and honor those who have faced cancer.

“Relay For Life is all about togetherness,” said American Cancer Society volunteer Doris Dedmon. “However, the safety of our patients, survivors, volunteers, and staff remains the highest priority.”

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Dedmon, an advocate for the “Neighbors Unite Against Cancer” campaign, has been involved in the Relay For Life movement for 25 years and has served in many volunteer leadership roles over the years. Some refer to her as the “Mother of Relay For Life of Cleveland County.” Dedmon explains, “Luminaria ceremonies are traditionally held during annual Relay For Life events. The ‘Neighbors Unite Against Cancer’ campaign allows participants to recapture the sense of community support while maintaining safety.”

When Dedmon learned there would be no in-person event this year, she and her teammate, Brad Gardner, got busy writing personal, heartfelt letters to raise funds for their team and take luminaria donations. To Gardner, this is a personal crusade.

When his mother, Sheila Gardner, was fighting cancer, she was a proud advocate of the American Cancer Society and engaged every person she knew to participate and make a difference. Brad Gardner shares, “Even until her final days, she was encouraging others, telling them to never give up, and fighting back. She was an inspiration to so many people in her community and left a legacy that will not be forgotten.”

Together, Dedmon and Gardner have mailed over 200 letters asking for donations. Dedmon, who insists on paying all the postage herself, and Gardner have collected over $4,000 during the midst of the pandemic to support the lifesaving mission of the American Cancer Society.

Dedmon and Gardner will be holding a special outdoor drive-thru luminaria service at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby on Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. for their donors and will light over 200 tribute bags in honor and memory of the many touched by cancer.

Dedmon said, “The American Cancer Society is very important to me because their lifesaving research has helped so many of my friends and family live longer than they should’ve. Cancer hasn’t stopped because of the pandemic, and neither will we.”

“We are in danger of losing a generation of progress in scientific research and a generation of lifesaving cancer treatments if we don’t act now. The end of cancer begins with research, which is why it has always been vital to achieving our mission,” said American Cancer Society Executive Director of Western North Carolina and South Carolina Megan Nelson. “Research takes years to come to fruition. A cancer breakthrough begins perhaps 10-20 years earlier. If research is disrupted today, it means lives lost tomorrow.”

The responsibilities of a Neighborhood Host include:

  • Pass out promotional and sale flyers along your street or in your neighborhood.
  • Set a fundraising goal: 20 luminaria averaging $10 each = $200 per Host.
  • Collect donations and deliver luminaria bags to donors; encourage everyone to decorate them.
  • Remind donors to set out decorated luminarias on Sept. 20.
  • Turn in your donations to your American Cancer Society contact.

If you are interested in volunteering as a Neighborhood Host or purchasing luminaria, please contact Andrea Woodfield at, or call (704) 674-3214.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at