The Miss-Lou celebrates, remembers, fights back tonight

Published 11:29 am Friday, May 3, 2013

File photo | The Natchez Democrat — A scene from the 2012 Relay for Life lantern ceremony.

File photo | The Natchez Democrat — A scene from the 2012 Relay for Life lantern ceremony.

VIDALIA — Miss-Lou residents will once again strap on their walking shoes tonight to battle cancer in the 17th annual Miss-Lou Relay for Life.

Nationally, Relay for Life traces its roots back to a Tacoma, Wash., doctor who spent 24 hours circling a track to raise money for his local American Cancer Society office. In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt raised $27,000. Today, Relay for Life is the main volunteer-driven fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.

This year, the Miss-Lou Relay is dedicated to Cliff Merritt.

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Merritt was President and CEO of Delta Bank in Vidalia from 1998 to 2012.

He died July 23, 2012, after a battling colon cancer for several years.

“Cliff was always an avid supporter,” said Miss-Lou Relay for Life chair Sherry Kiser. “He was just a wonderful person.”

Approximately 50 teams are signed up for this year’s Miss-Lou Relay; 38 of those teams will have booths at the Relay site tonight.

Accounting chair Janis Holder said the event is on track to break last year’s fundraising total.

“We are currently above where we were last year at this point,” Holder said. “I certainly hope we beat last year’s total.”

Despite the event’s large fundraising ability, Holder said the event does not set an annual fundraising goal.

“Our personal goal is always to match what we did the previous year,” Holder said. “We don’t really say ‘Oh, we are going to do $300 thousand.’ We just do what we did last year and pray that we go over what we raised the previous year.”

The Miss-Lou Relay for Life’s lofty fundraising work has garnered several awards for the event. Kiser said the most prestigious accolades include being ranked fifth nationally in fundraising per capita and regularly placing in the top five for total fundraising in the event’s district.

To raise money for the event, teams host fundraisers in various forms. A new team this year, Team Jesus hosted a Zumbathon in early March at Natchez Total Fitness. The team requested a $5 donation minimum for each class. In total, the team has raised more than $4,700. The Natchez Market’s method of fundraising is consistently successful.

“The Market has is always very successful,” Kiser said. “We think they are going to do even better than they did last year.”

And they already have.

In 2012, Natchez Markets raised $25,575. The Markets’ total this year eclipsed the previous year’s total one week ago.

Fundraising will continue all night tonight.

“It’s like a little festival,” Kiser said. “There will be music, activities and I’m excited about our speaker, Marshall Ramsey.”

Ramsey is an editorial cartoonist and melanoma survivor. He was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2002 and 2006. Ramsey has also received awards from the Melanoma Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society for promoting skin cancer screenings.

As with all Relay for Life events, the relay begins with a survivor lap — specifically dedicated to survivors of cancer. The second lap is for anyone who provides care for cancer patients. All relay teams begin walking together on the following lap, continuing to walk until just before 4 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s just so inspiring to see those survivors give it everything they’ve got, even with all they have been through,” co-chair Julia Drews said. “It’s very touching to see them so determined to finish the survivor lap. That’s why we do what we do.”