It is time to Relay once again

Published 11:05 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It’s been a whole year since you last heard from me; and for those of you who know me, you probably can’t believe I’ve kept quiet this long.

Well, Ole Man River threw us a curve ball in May, and even though we didn’t really want to, we were forced to postpone the Relay for Life until June. For those of us who volunteer for Relay, we are staunch believers that “the show must go on,” so you can believe that postponement was a bad word for us.

The people who are going through a cancer diagnosis, your friends and your loved ones, don’t have the option to postpone their disease and their fight. They must trudge forward; and we want to be right there beside them, taking every step with them. Therefore, we thought about the high water long and hard before finally making the decision to push it back six weeks. Our concern for the safety of our volunteers and our cancer survivors was forethought in our minds, and we certainly did not want to put any extra burdens on the town officials who were already fighting their own battles with the water situation. So, postpone we did, and now June is here and the weekend for Relay for Life.

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We’ve heard everything this week from “Man, it’s going to be hot” to “There’s a 60 percent chance of rain.” You must remember, we do live in Natchez, the heart of the South, where it’s always hot here in the summer. So, yes, it will be hot; and yes, it might rain. But we’re going to work through it and around it. When we first started out 13 years ago, we had a small Relay on the asphalt at the Natchez Mall. Our first Relay was in July. You can imagine how hot it was in July, and on asphalt even.

At that time, I was a team captain; and our “team,” which consisted of me and two others from our office, struggled and rained sweat on that hot asphalt in July to erect our first-ever tent site, a hunting camp.

Again, remember, the team was a total of three; two girls and one guy. While us girls did our best to hammer and hold, push and tug, wrench and wrangle, all under the watchful and scrutinizing eye of our fearless male leader, we finally managed to erect the first side of our three-sided camp. Standing back with utter pride to gaze upon our “creation,” it was about that time that a huge gust of the only wind of the day blew across the mall parking lot. Down went our creation, while we could only watch in total disbelief. And then, a strange thing happened; it became funny. The three of us started laughing; and after a while, our sweat was mixed with tears from laughing so hard.

We picked up our pride and our “creation,” and we started the task all over again. We finally managed to get our crude hunting camp erected, and even though we were totally enthralled with our project, teams with a larger number of members appeared and put up mansions compared to our site. But we didn’t care. We had accomplished a very large feat for our small team. Our hearts were swelling with the pride that can only come with doing something for someone else, expecting nothing in return.

This is the same feeling that every team, every volunteer, and every participant experiences at Relay. Last year, the clouds poured rain the entire Thursday night before Relay and until noon the day of Relay. We trudged through the mud and slush, moved our tents over an extra foot or two, and carried on with our mission. So if it rains this year, we will do it again. We were like kids last year; the adults were splashing through the water with as much glee as a toddler — and we raised $275,000!

When you live in the South, there are some things you grow to expect — heat and rain. Use common sense when putting up your tent sites Friday morning; don’t overdo it, take plenty of rest breaks, and drink plenty of water. We want to encourage all survivors to come, even in the heat, and take things at your own pace. We will have fans under the survivor tents during the survivor reception. This should keep our survivors cool until their survivor lap, which is always the highlight of our Relay. You will not want to miss seeing our 300 plus survivors circle the track.

Splash on your sunscreen, don your sunshades and cap, throw an umbrella in your car, and come on down to the Vidalia Riverfront for a fun-filled day of good food and entertainment. Several teams will have their tent sites up and running by noon on Friday, so bring your office mates to lunch.

Stay a little or stay a lot; either way, you’re sure to leave with a good feeling.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s Friday the 13, but who’s superstitious?

See you Friday.

Janis Holder is chairman of 2008 Relay for Life of the Miss-Lou.