Residents gather at courthouse to spread breast cancer awareness

Published 12:04 am Saturday, October 14, 2017

NATCHEZ — As a two-time breast cancer survivor was giving the command to release the sea of pink balloons into the blue fall sky Friday, a flock of pelicans appeared overhead, drawing gasps from the more than 100 present.

Once the balloons were airborne, the crowd clapped as a full group of pelicans came back to circle the Adams County Courthouse, where many had gathered for Paint Natchez Pink.

“God is sending His birds,” said the two-time survivor, Faith Stretch, after she had just told the crowd about healing, strength, perseverance and comfort God can provide.

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Stretch said they were releasing the balloons in memory of those who have died from breast cancer and to honor those still fighting for survival — approximately 252,000 new cases a year in the U.S.

Mayor Darryl Grennell had read a proclamation about Painting Natchez Pink in what he hopes becomes an annual event to help spread awareness for people getting regularly checked.

“Natchez was painted pink today,” Grennell said. “Little things like this can make all the difference in the world if it means one person sees this and gets checked.

“If you can catch invasive breast cancer early, that’s the key. You need to catch it as early as possible.”

Paint Natchez Pink was an event spearheaded by Merit Health Natchez to give back to the community, said CEO Eric Robinson. Robinson said more than 90 businesses became pink partners, helping the hospital have more than 1,400 pink T-shirts printed.

“This has been a personal effort, not hospital business,” Robinson said. “Everyone knows someone who has been personally touched by breast caner.”

Robinson said he wanted to see the high numbers associated with breast cancer, such as the estimated 40,000 men and women who will die from it in the U.S. and 430 in Mississippi, lowered.

Emily Edwards with Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez library said many people have been affected in one way or another by breast cancer and she thought the event inspired people to come out.

“We have been painting Co-Lin pink all week,” Edwards said. “We wanted to come out and support the entire community.”

Salina Edwards with the City of Natchez said Stretch’s speech, in particular, inspired her.

“Her speech was so emotional,” Salina Edwards said. “It brought tears to my eyes.”

Stretch, who is an organizer for today’s Susan G. Komen River Runs Pink 5K event, was in tears herself when she told her story, about first battling breast cancer in 2010. After surgery, she expected from what doctors had told her five years of remission, but she did not make it quite that far before cancer returned.

“One reason I am here is to do my part to change things for the next generation,” Stretch said. “I hope you will come out to River Runs Pink. 25 percent of the funds we raise goes to research and 75 percent stays right here in the community for mammograms and to increase breast cancer awareness.”

Jimmy Allgood of Redneck Adventures said the pelicans have been staging in Old River and out on the Mississippi River.

“They have been hanging out in our back yard and front yard, but they decided to be a part of Paint Natchez Pink today,” Allgood said. “It just shows you God has a great plan. He is all powerful and has a great plan.”