April 10, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Eager supporters of every age are breaking in their walking shoes for the American Cancer Society''s Relay for Life April 24 at Saunders Field (Magnolia Bowl). This signature event celebrates courage, survivorship and remembrance for every individual and family who has battled the disease.
The 12-hour fundraiser begins with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. April 24 and concludes with an inspiring closing ceremony at 6 a.m. April 25. Dozens of teams representing churches, schools, families and friends have been raising donations for months and will continue their efforts as volunteers walk the track throughout the night, participate in games and enjoying music from Swing Shift, Keith and Margie and more.
"It''s such a moving experience to me because I''m a cancer survivor," said 2009 Lowndes Relay for Life Chair Lenny Ring. "There have been so many gains in fighting cancer in the last several years, and a lot of it is due to research sponsored by the American Cancer Society."
Ring and other co-organizers encourage all cancer survivors to come out for a casual reception preceding the 6 p.m. start.
"From 5-6 p.m. is going to be survivors'' reception," the chairman urged. "We want anybody who is a cancer survivor in Lowndes County to come out and register. They''ll get a T-shirt and sandwich and some other giveaways."
After the opening ceremony, highlighted by the New Hope High School Band performing the national anthem, survivors will lead the first lap around the track.
"You don''t have to be pre-registered before April 24 to participate, and you don''t have to be part of a team to take part," Ring stressed. "You can show up that evening and stay for as long as you want.
Teams will be selling food ranging from hamburgers to funnel cakes to help Relay reach its goal of $145,000. Activities for children will include inflatables, a dunking booth and games.
"We''re thinking this (the Columbus event) will be one of the biggest in the state," said Ring. "We''ve already got about 55 teams, more than ever before."
Lights of hope
At 9 p.m., hundreds of luminaria lining the track and decorated with the names of those who have battled cancer will be lit and left glowing throughout the night to remind everyone of the importance of their efforts.
Luminaria can be purchased for a minimum donation of $10 that evening, or before the event at booths volunteers will man from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11 at Wal-Mart and April 18 in front of the Ruth''s building downtown. They may also be purchased in advance by contacting Mevela Andrews at 662-242-0459. The names of each individual honored or remembered will be read publicly.
Volunteers enjoy creative fundraising. Thanks to a team from New Hope High School, a dishwasher painted Relay-for-Life purple and adorned with the event''s moon and stars symbols has been appearing mysteriously on various lawns. A donation secures its removal. Homeowners can even purchase "insurance" to be sure the unlikely yard "art" doesn''t appear near their doorstep.
Murrah''s Chapel Baptist Church has already surpassed its goal of $3,000 with events including a woman-less beauty review, a dessert auction and barbecue dinner.
Beersheba Cumberland Presbyterian Church, where Ring and Team Development Chair Mott Ellis attend, is a perpetual fundraising powerhouse, hosting spaghetti suppers and raffles.
Seven-year-old Ellis Clark, a student at Annunciation Catholic Church, asked for donations to Relay for Life instead of presents for his recent birthday, unselfishly raising more than $485.
Each dollar raised goes directly to the ACS, the nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem through research, education, advocacy and service.
"They fund so many grants for research," noted Ring. "You can go to their Web site and see where the grant money is going. You can also see it''s composed mostly of volunteers so they have little overhead."
The entire community is urged to participate, honoring all those who have faced cancer, celebrating the victories and supporting continued research.
For more information about the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life, visit www.cancer.org.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.