Relay for Life rallies hope

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

From staff reports

Relay for Life, a fundraising activity by cancer survivors, friends and associates, celebrated life, spirit and rededicated themselves to their common cause this past weekend.

A little over $30,000 was raised for research to find a cure for cancer, as well as other programs including advocacy of laws to restrict smoking in public places, and other programs, according to program spokeswomen.

Relay teams have been, and will again be, recruited. They have fundraisers throughout the year and then gather on the night of the relay. Money can be turned in as late as Aug. 31. The 2013 relay fundraising project begins Sept. 1.

Relay for Life advocacy programs work to persuade legislators to pass laws to support preventive care, so people may avoid cancer, or press it into remission.

Nearly 125 people participated, according to one estimate.

Among the many participants, Jim and Betty Bryan of Lewisburg reflected on the 60 survivors and six relay teams with walkers at the Expo Center on Robin Hood Road.

"It was much cooler than last year," Jim Bryan reported. "I actually walked 4.5 miles...

"Fewer people participated" this year, he said. "I know they're hoping to bring it back to what it was in 2008."

Like other charitable programs, Relay for Life has been affected by the economic recession; "I'm sure it has," he said.

The Bryans walked together.

While on the Expo track, Betty Bryan thought about friends, including "my classmate, Earline McKinney Cathey, who was at our class reunion on June 1."

Cathey was buried in Belfast on Saturday.

"She really lived for the relay," Betty Bryan said. "She died Thursday ... right before the relay... We started first grade together in Petersburg Elementary School."

Betty Bryan also remembers Timmy Simmons, who passed with colon cancer in 2010.

"He was our next-door neighbor's son," she continued. "His mother wasn't able to walk, so I told her that I would walk for her and Timmy."

Trish Byran, Jim's first wife, was another individual who he and his current wife walked for on Friday night and Saturday morning. Trish died of lung cancer in 2010.

Recognizing that humor might often be the best medicine, Marshall Medical Center's Relay for Life team brought some lighter moments before the walk that started at sunset Friday.

"There's an old kids game," Jim Bryan said, recalling the game's name; Operation. "Then (on Friday) they'd wear scrubs and withdraw organs, and they had a big beach ball being removed...

"'Cut Out Cancer' was their slogan," he said.

The relay team from Okay Tire service was awarded with the first Valerie Anderson Award to recognize the participants' dedication, spirit and on-going volunteer service that epitomizes those qualities for the woman for whom the award is named.

Anderson passed last year. She's remembered as a dedicated volunteer during the Relays. She was taken by a heart attack but had cancer and her treatments were seen as what weakened her heart.

Anderson's husband, Teddy, and their son, Chance, participated in the ceremony to deliver the first of what's to become an annual award.

Summarizing the approach taken by the relay for Life participants, Nashville Area American Cancer Community Representative Society Harriett Stewart called upon volunteers to rededicate themselves.

"If your dreams and goals don't scare you, they're not set high enough," Stewart said, adding a quote from 2 Corinthians 9:7.

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."