Relay for Life: Annual events across the region benefit the American Cancer Society

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

United in the fight against cancer, co-workers, neighbors and friends will band together over the next two months across Northeast Mississippi.
For months, teams of friends, neighbors and co-workers have hosted spaghetti dinners, sold T-shirts, organized raffles, prepared shows and baked cookies to assist the American Cancer Society in its mission to ensure more birthdays for cancer survivors.
“In the long run, it’s all about finding the cure,” said Elizabeth Gable , who serves as the chairwoman for the Lee County Relay for Life.
Between April 26 and June 14, 10 Relay for Life events will welcome the community to celebrate the good fight by cancer survivors and remember those who have lost the battle. Each will have its own flavor and theme, but they are all open to their communities, not just the teams that participated directly in the fundraising.
In Lee County, Relay for Life is taking inspiration from children’s stories with its “Once Upon a Cure” theme.
“Most of our booths will have a game around the theme,” said American Cancer Society community representative Paige Kelly, including face painting and balloon animals. “This is a very kid- and family-friendly event.”
In Baldwyn, the Relay for Life planners are going big.
“Our theme is Dream Big, Hope Big, Relay Big,” said Shelaine Pennington, who serves as the relay chairwoman.
At all Relay for Life events, survivors receive special recognition and open the Relay for Life by walking the first lap.
In Baldwyn, a group of motorcycle riders are planning to escort the survivors from their dinner to the Lattimer Park, Pennington said.
Along with the fun, each relay features a luminary ceremony where lights are lit in honor of survivors and in memory of those who have lost the battle.
Many Relay events incorporate sky lanterns into the event, weather permitting.
“We call them messages to heaven,” Pennington said, and families and friends can write notes that can be placed into the lanterns.
There’s still time for teams to get into their Relay for Life events.

Where the money goes
The funds raised through the Relay for Life event allow the American Cancer Society to continue the fight against cancer.
“It’s personal for us,” said Gable, whose lost a grandmother and mother-in-law. “You know you’re raising money to send off for research. You know in the long run it will benefit someone you know.”
The American Cancer Society is well respected for its research efforts that improve care and outcomes for people with cancer. It’s also recognized as a leading source of quality information on cancer prevention and treatment.
In addition to the web-based resources, the American Cancer Society’s hotline is accessible for any cancer survivor or caregiver to find the answers to questions about symptoms, treatment side effects, resources and more.
“Twenty-four-seven, there’s somebody there,” Kelly said. “They can talk to someone, get accurate information, whatever they need.”
Locally, the Relay for Life aids people actively fighting cancer. It also spreads cancer awareness.
In Northeast Mississippi, the American Cancer Society hosts support groups such as I Can Cope that are open to any cancer survivor and cancer specific groups, like Man-to-Man for prostate cancer.
The Look Good, Feel Better program connects cancer survivors with trained cosmetologists for advice on hair and make up during treatment.
In Jackson, efforts are under way to create a 32-suite Hope Lodge, which will provide a free place to stay for people who have to seek cancer treatment away from home.
Based on a community needs assessment, the American Cancer Society anticipates the Hope Lodge will help 1,000 patients and their caregivers annually.
“Relay will help build it and keep it running,” Kelly said.
michaela.morris@journalinc.com

Ready set, relay

RELAY FOR LIFE EVENTS benefiting the American Cancer Society are scheduled throughout Northeast Mississippi in April and May. Teams raise money for the cancer society and celebrate their success with their communities.
Call (662) 844-8544 or visit cancer.org for more information.
• April 26: Pontotoc County, Pontotoc Square;
• May 3: Chickasaw County, Joe Brigance Park, Houston;
• May 10: Union County, county sportsplex, New Albany;
• May 17: Tishomingo County, Mineral Springs Park;
Itawamba County, Fulton square;
• May 24: Lee County, Tupelo Fairpark;
• May 31: Baldwyn, Latimer Park; Alcorn County, Corinth
High School
• June 7: Prentiss County, NEMCC football field,
Booneville;
• June 14: Tippah County, Ripley Square; Monroe County, Frisco Park, Amory.