Relay for Life wall doubles as tribute to volunteers like Lanehart

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 26, 2000

At this year’s Relay for Life, an eight-foot wall stood as a tribute to cancer survivors and victims – and as a memorial to the hard work of American Cancer Society volunteers.

The portable wooden wall, a Vietnam Memorial-type landmark on a smaller scale, was emblazoned with the names of both survivors and victims of the disease — anyone for whom a luminary was bought.

In all, the 32-foot-long wall contained more than 1,100 names on plaques fashioned and fastened by volunteer of the cancer society’s Miss-Lou chapter.

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Those volunteers included project supervisor Al Lanehart, who could not help but think that there shouldn’t be that many names.

After all, his life has been touched by cancer no less than three times. Tommy Heard, Lanehart’s co-worker at accounting firm Silas Simmons & Co., was diagnosed with cancer 14 years ago and is once again undergoing treatments.

Lanehart’s mother died of cancer in 1988, and his sister battled breast cancer last year. “I guess you could say I’m doing this for them,”&160;he said.

And Lanehart, who has done carpentry as a hobby since childhood, has been a volunteer with Relay for Life ever since its start five years ago. So when he got the opportunity to work on the wall, he gladly took on the project.

In fact, volunteers worked on the project in the woodworking shop of Lanehart’s Natchez home.

Still, he gives much of the credit to his fellow volunteers, who together spent about two weeks constructing the wall and designing and attaching the name plaques.

He added that he wall — a new feature of this year’s Relay for Life, which was held Friday and Saturday on the riverfront in Vidalia — was the idea of Janice Holder.

The importance of the project really came home to Lanehart when a man came up to him at the relay and said he would be willing to pay at price to add the name of his mother, who died of cancer, to the wall.

“The boards are almost completely filled with names,”&160;Lanehart said. “This lets people see the magnitude (of cancer’s effects).”

Lanehart also volunteers locally as a quartermaster and at the state level as a trustee with the Veterans of Foreign Wars