Relay makes a difference one at a time

Published 1:11 pm Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ever been asked, “Why do you Relay?”

I certainly have by family, friends and even myself. The answer is always the same, “How can I not?” Recently I have had the great opportunity to attend a leadership summit sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life.

Like me, these people are volunteers as well as survivors from the Mid-South District that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. It was such an inspiring weekend and included survivor stories as well as ideas shared from all over the Mid South on how to hold a successful event.

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The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy and patient services. Since 1913, there have been remarkable strides in cancer science, prevention and treatment.

The Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature event. Teams share a common purpose — supporting the American Cancer Society’s mission. It allows a community to grieve for those lost to cancer and to celebrate those who have survived. Our common goal to decrease the mortality and incidence of cancer and to improve the quality of life for all patients keeps us focused on continual improvement and growth of our events.

Here are a few things that might answer that infamous question — Where does the money go?

Camp Rainbow will be held June 5-9 at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica. The camp is free and open to all cancer survivors ages 6 -17. It gives children the opportunity to be around kids with similar experiences. For the 2007-2008 academic years, the Mid-South Division has awarded 225 scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each. In Louisiana there were 43 recipients and Mississippi had 18 recipients. The Miss-Lou is proud to have two of those recipients, Kyle Dunaway and Sam Tumminello.

Hope Lodges are one tangible example of how the American Cancer Society gives back to communities. Hope Lodges not only increase access to care and provide a home away from home free of charge for the growing number of cancer patients and their families, but they also provide a home-like nurturing environment, so patients can get support from others going through the same experience. There are currently 22 Hope Lodges in the United States with more planned for the future. We are fortunate to have a Hope Lodge in New Orleans.

Research all over the country is funded from grants through the American Cancer Society with those results affecting everyone in all communities. Research is done to find drugs to help treat cancer as well as developing effective pap smears, mammograms and PSA test for prostate cancer. Advocacy lets us work with legislature to enact laws on issues important to the American Cancer Society. Educating people about early detection is so important. Everyone has access to 1-800-ACS-2345 and Some of the patient services include Reach to Recovery, Look Good Feel Better, and Man to Man to name a few. These are all examples of your cancer dollars at work.

I would like to invite everyone to the 2007 MissLou Relay For Life to be held Friday at the Vidalia Riverfront. Please come out and support the 48 teams that have volunteered their time and efforts for the last several months holding various fund raisers. There will be an Idol Contest, bands, games and of course great food. Each year our survivors are honored with a reception starting at 6 and then a survivor’s lap. At 9 p.m. our Ceremony of Hope will begin. It’s a time to remember those that have lost their battle to cancer and honor those that are surviving. And by all means plan to stay all night. I think it is an event well worth attending. It’s easy to see how connected we really are and recognize the commitment of a remarkable group of volunteers. We are making a difference one Relay at a time!

Julia Drews Miss-Lou Relay For Life Chairman