Every holiday is precious for cancer survivors, and Lee County Relay for Life plans to celebrate them all May 13.
“When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it stays with them for the rest of their life,” said Emily Blount, community representative with the American Cancer Society. “Survivors should always be celebrated just as we always celebrate the holidays.”
The annual event which recognizes the work of teams around the county on behalf of the American Cancer Society will be held at The Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo.
“We think it will bring more people together,” because the mall is such a community gathering place, said Brandy Clark, chairwoman for the Lee County Relay for Life.
The evening will kick off with a 6 p.m. reception for survivors followed by the 7 p.m. opening ceremonies.
“The survivors are so inspiring,” said Clark, who works as the ward secretary on the oncology floor at North Mississippi Medical Center. She loves seeing survivors connect with each other. “When the survivors walk the first lap, it’s an emotional time.”
Families attending the mall’s family night from 7 to 9 p.m. will be encouraged to come out to the Relay’s site outside in the Sears parking lot. Children who complete and bring coloring sheets provided during family time out to the Relay will receive a special prize.
There will be plenty of family-friendly activities such as inflatables, face painting and meeting firefighters. Relay hulu hoop and kite contests will be open to teams and the public. Teams will have drinks and food to help raise additional money for the American Cancer Society. Parents can take advantage of therapeutic massage for $1 a minute.
“We want to encourage families to come out,” Clark said.
Entertainment planned for the evening includes John Milstead and Tara Nolan Priest. Anyone can join a Zumba session or the Tupelo Film Festival midnight screening for $1 admission.
At 10 p.m., the Relay will host the traditional luminary ceremony. Lights are lit to honor those fighting cancer and remember those who have lost their battles. Luminaries can be purchased for $10 up until 10 p.m. May 13.
This year, people also will be able to purchase torches of hope that will be lit during the ceremony as well, Blount said. Because the torches, which cost $100, incorporate a plaque that has to be pre-made, the request for torches are due by Monday.
In case of inclement weather, the Relay will move indoors to the mall’s food court.
Where the money goes
The funds that flow from the Lee County Relay for Life and other Relay events across North Mississippi makes American Cancer Society programs possible.
“Over the past 10 years, the American Cancer Society has given over $9.2 million to the University Of Mississippi Medical Center in research grants,” Blount said. “Money raised through Relay For Life funded these grants benefiting cancer patients not only in Mississippi but across the nation.”
On the local level, the American Cancer Society provides programs such as Look Good, Feel Better – a program for women with cancer to help them with their appearance during cancer treatment – and support groups like I Can Cope and Man-to-Man. The society’s Reach to Recovery program brings together longtime breast cancer survivors and newly diagnosed cancer patients.
Grants to hospitals like North Mississippi Medical Center and Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi help provide transportation to and from treatment.
On a national level, the Relays help fund the American Cancer Society’s research and outreach programs. The cancer society maintains an extensive website that provides evidence-based information on cancer types, treatments and statistics and a call center, where cancer patients and their families can access information and community resources.
For a look at other events check out Friday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.
Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal