Relay for Life raises most money so far

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; This year’s Relay for Life was the most successful effort thus far in the Miss-Lou battle against cancer.

&uot;We were astounded by the dedication of the teams,&uot; said Vidalia resident and cancer-survivor Charlene Rushing, who served as publicity chairman for the relay.

Over 40 local teams participated in the 24-hour relay, which was held Friday night on the Vidalia Riverfront. Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s biggest yearly fund-raiser, providing money nationwide for research, education and patient services.

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Most of the teams, sponsored by local businesses and civic groups, start raising money in January, though some fundraisers are operated year-round.

Rushing said this year’s total has topped $130,000 &045; and the bookkeepers are still counting.

&uot;We always get money in for a few weeks after the relay, but right now, it’s $6,000 over last year’s total,&uot; she said.

Rushing estimated that more than 5,000 people attended the Friday night relay, where cancer survivors walked the first lap on the track. &uot;We had over 150 cancer survivors participate in this year’s event, and that is really important to us,&uot; she said.

With a new hotel and construction on the riverfront, the relay was relocated south of the Mississippi River bridges this year. The new grounds returned an important element to the gathering.

&uot;This year, the booths for the teams were all facing inside toward the track. It was more personal &045; people did not feel disconnected,&uot; said Rushing, adding that a special reverence was restored to the luminary service, where candles are lit and prayer is offered in memory of loved ones who have died of cancer and to honor those who are surviving.

&uot;It seems like all our goals were accomplished this year, and it seems we always pick up ideas for next year. Maybe that’s why the relay seems to get better every year,&uot; Rushing said.