Relay for Life ends in success

Brandie Richardson

The American Cancer Society held its annual fundraiser, Relay for Life, on April 29 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

The event was held from 6 p.m. to midnight and included the survivor and caregiver lap, Walk of Hope, and the Luminaria Ceremony, along with music, food and performances from the Dutchtown High and Lowery Middle School Cheer teams and the band Stonewall. There was also the Womanless Pageant and various activities such as a scavenger hunt, jazzercise class by Rachel McGuerty, a glow lap and hokey pokey.

Those in attendance heard both survivor and caregiver stories and words from guest speakers WAFB News Anchor, and cancer survivor, Donna Britt, Parish President Kenny Matassa and James LeBlanc.

"When we walk this giant relay we are creating future birthdays for people, we are creating that kid who is about to graduate high school and start college, we are helpings kids, men and women who have dreams to go to those dreams and live past cancer," Britt said.

Robin Reynolds, a caregiver of three people, spoke about how it changed her life. She said the event is also about paying tribute and celebrating the caregivers.

"There are no words to describe how being a caregiver changed me," Reynolds said, adding that when her husband passed away she knew for the first time what it felt like to be lost. "Caregiving had become my purpose. "It was the most difficult and heart wrenching thing I have ever done but it was an experience I would never trade for anything in the world."

There were nearly 30 registered teams this year made up of local businesses, caregivers, survivors, clubs and church groups from the Parish. Ascension Parish American Cancer Society representative Kim Meyers said she thought the Saturday event was a huge success this year.

"Our parish has been through a lot since the August floods but Saturday night shows that we are strong and we can come together to make a difference in the fight against CANCER. Many of our committee members homes flooded but they still worked hard to make relay happen."

Relay for Life is a volunteer-driven event supporting those fighting against cancer. Proceeds from each fundraiser goes towards helping the Cancer Society find cures through research.

Jessica Dunaway of the team Mimi's Marchers has attended Relay for three years in honor of her mother, who passed away from breast cancer five years ago, and her grandmother. She said family and friends continue to be apart of the fundraiser to support family members who have had cancer and beat it and for those who lost their battle to cancer.

"This is a very deep team,"Dunaway said. "Relay is important for those people walking around the track, they are survivors. We need more survivors instead of people in memory of. That's why we do this."

For another team, Cancer Kickin' Cajuns, this was their second time participating at the annual fundraiser. Team Leader Debbie Ducote said her team relays because they have lost many family members to cancer, including her father who passed away in 1998.

"The American Cancer Society provides many different avenues to support cancer victims and caregivers," Ducote said, adding that they Society has many options such as Hope Lodge in New Orleans and many resources at the Baton Rouge office such as wigs and makeup. "A lot of the money goes to cure cancer, the research that they are doing to cure cancer."