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Relay teams square off against cancer, sleep

VIDALIA — Each year, the Miss-Lou Relay for Life presents two battles — the battle against cancer and the battle to stay awake.

At 11:29 p.m. Friday, Ann Jackson of Natchez fought off drowsiness using her secret weapon — the electric slide. Jackson and other members of her Walgreens Relay team performed the line dance in front of the main stage.

“This is the first year I’ve been able to attend Relay,” Jackson said. “I’m used to being in the bed by 7 p.m., but we’re going to try to stay here until 4 a.m.”

For others, dancing wouldn’t keep the sleep fairy away.

Joe and Mary Ann Doughty of Vidalia were the last two standing for the First Baptist Church, Vidalia Relay team. The Doughtys are self-proclaimed pros at staying awake during Relay. They call it a night at 6 a.m.

At 12:41 a.m. Saturday, the couple sat comfortably in their lawn chairs, and offered two tips for staying alert.

“Drink Diet Coke and listen to good music,” Joe said. “We stay up all night because cancer never sleeps.”

The Natchez Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., one of the few teams that remained at the Relay site at 1 a.m., kept busy walking laps around the field.

“This is my time of night. I’m used to staying up this late,” said sorority member Jackie Campbell, who regularly works nights. “I usually start getting sleepy around 5:30 a.m., and even then, I get up and move around.”

Sitting next to Campbell, sorority member Yokena Anderson said the team soon would break out some dance moves.

“We’re going to do some of our strolls and show off our Delta moves later on,” Anderson said.

Campbell and other members of her team also kept slumber at bay by participating in several early morning Relay games, including cracker whistle and toilet paper relay. Campbell’s team fell to the Miss-Lou Misfits in the final round of the toilet paper relay, which required teams to race with toilet paper rolls and toilet plungers wedged between their legs. Misfits team member Erin Faircloth said she was feeling a little sluggish before competing in the relay, but that soon changed.

“As wired as we are right now, I don’t think we could sleep right now if we wanted to,” Faircloth said. “The nerves of the game have woken me up completely.”

Relay Chairman Bridgid Martin said teams raised approximately $197,000 for the American Cancer Society. However, a final amount won’t be available until all Relay teams submit their donations.

“Hopefully, we’ll hit $200,000,” Martin said.