Relay for Life event brings cancer awareness to the forefront
Franklin’s annual Relay for Life, “Through the Decades,” was held Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, at the Franklin High School football field.
Becky Ramey and Toby Blanton, the organizers for the Relay for Life walk conducted the opening ceremonies which began at 7 p.m. A few statistics were given to show how prevalent cancer is and how much good Relay for Life is doing. The Relay for Life walk has been going on for 27 years nationwide. As of April, the organization has raised $4 billion for cancer research and treatment; that means that 350 more lives are saved per day compared to the early ’90s. This event marks the 98th birthday of American Cancer Society with 11 million cancer survivors alive today.
After the opening remarks the Marine Corp League presented the colors while Mackenzie Herman sang the national anthem.
The special guest speaker for the event was, Johanna Dewees. She has been a nurse for 33 years and, since 2009, she has been a Patient Navigator for breast cancer. A patient navigator is someone who aids each patient from the time of their diagnosis with any information and services they need along the way. Dewees says that she has assisted 53 women with breast cancer in Haywood County alone, and only one has died. She says she is a great believer in The American Cancer Society and Relay for Life because of the ongoing good that they do. “The American Cancer Society will still be here long after we are gone, and they will still be working to find cures and fighting back,” she said.
Ramey recognized the grand club recipients for this year, those individuals that have raised more than $1,000. They were, Gene Crane, Tommy Peck, Able Tallent, and Cindy Crane. Gene and Cindy Crane raised more than $3,000 each.
Crane was named the 2011 Honorary Relay for Life Chair. She has been involved with Relay for Life for 11 years, since she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Then came the lighting of the Relay torch and the first lap of the walk as well as the survivors and caregivers lap.
Businesses from all over Franklin came together to show their support and sponsorship for Relay for Life. Business tents were set up along the track, giving demonstrations or having bake sales or selling other items to raise money for Relay for Life. There was a Zumba dance demonstration as well as an impressive demonstration from the Danny Antoine's Karate group.
Stephanie Kinsland, a teller at RBC Bank for four years, says she became involved with Relay for Life after she came to work at the bank. “Cancer is so prevalent in our society.,” she said. “Thankfully no one at the bank has cancer but all of us know someone that has had cancer. And just with talking to our customers, we see a lot of people that are either dealing with cancer right now or know of someone that is.”
Around 8 p.m., local businessman Jim Vanderwoude flew his helicopter over the field in honor of all the cancer survivors.
Ernie Golding, 71, who has lived in Franklin since 1975, says he is a survivor of lung cancer for 18 months. He said that the cancer in his lungs was found inadvertantly when he had an x-ray done on the arteries in his neck, which was taken too low. After a painful surgery and recovery, he is now cancer free. “I had cancer but cancer didn’t have me,” he said.
“Cancer runs in my family and I want to support the cause,” said Tammy Holland. “My grandmother had cancer when she was 62 and because of all that they were able to do to find a cure for her she lived until she was 96. My mom and both of my aunts are both walking in the survivors lap.”
The “Ladies in Drag” beauty contest was a real crowd pleaser. The “ladies” wandered through the crowd having their pictures taken, dancing and taking up donations. At the end of the evening, whoever had raised the most was declared the winner. The lucky “lady” was “Cinnamon Bun” representing the Boys of Caterpillar, raising $240.50. All together these “ladies” raised $1438.41 for Relay.
At 9:30 p.m. the crowd gathered for the Luminary Service. Tammy Dills, Luminaria Chair, reminded everyone about the seriousness of cancer. Keith and Julie Teague spoke of their cancer experience. Keith is a survivor and a fighter. He gives all the credit to God for getting him through it because he acknowledged that he was too weak to do it alone. He also read Psalm 23, citing the Bible passage as his constant source of strength to keep going.
The candlelight service was the most somber part of the evening. A luminary was lit for each category — husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends and neighbors — as members of the crowd broke their memorial candle.
Keirsten Hedden played a couple of songs on the guitar and then played “Amazing Grace” during the silent Memory Lap.
Finally, Rev. Randy Drinnon of the Burningtown Baptist Church, closed the gathering with prayer. People were encouraged to stay but were welcome to leave after the closing prayer. The walk continued all night.
The final lap came early Saturday mornring, followed by breakfast and the closing ceremonies with special recognition of those that gave an extra effort to the cause.
Even though the annual event has concluded, the fund raising continues. A Relay for Life charity auction will be held Saturday, June 11, at 5 p.m. at the Reminisce Antique and Auction, 47 Macon Center Drive.
For more information, contact Becky Ramey at (828)421-2357.