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Relay for Life hosts survivors dinner

By: Brittany Bowden

Just days away from Crenshaw County Relay for Life 2017, cancer survivors gathered together for a meal to celebrate and honor their life stories.

“It is my favorite part of Relay,” said event coordinator Cathy Wilkes, “because it is for the survivors and their guests. It is a time for them to fellowship with one another, share their success stories, and offer support.”

Wilkes, who was diagnosed with cancer one year ago, began her involvement when she was nine years old after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. The Luverne teacher has experienced many friends and students who have also been diagnosed. Her passion to give back to the community led her to be a part of the Relay for Life events.  The event has taken place on the week of Relay for more than 20 years.

In 2002, Mary Anne Smith received the devastating news that no one would like to receive. She had breast cancer. After undergoing chemo and radiation, Smith lost her hair. She overcame the disease, but was soon re-diagnosed in 2008 with a different type of cancer. Once again, after a tough battle, she overcame it. Her hair has since regrown into beautiful curls. “Once you have cancer, you are prone to contract it again. I keep up with my check-ups and I am very blessed to be here today,” Smith said.

Survivors with 41 years in remission to newly diagnosed fighters packed the room of the Luverne United Methodist Church Dei Center. The Belles and Beaus played an active role as they aided in the kitchen by preparing plates and drinks.

As survivors filed into the room, each person signed the Survivor’s Banner, which is themed: Superhero’s Fight Against Cancer. The survivors will carry the banner at the front of the walk on Saturday. With more than 10 teams throughout Crenshaw County, there is expected to be a massive turnout. The goal this year is to raise $46,000 for the American Cancer Societ.

Following the “Sunday Meal” the Luverne FFA String Band entertained the survivors. The band played several songs included gospel music and today’s hits. The Door Prize drawing concluded the fun-filled evening.

Usually held on Friday, this year the committee has decided to make a change. Relay for Life will now take place on Saturday, April 29. The fun, however, will still take place on Friday in the form of a movie night. Super Foods will close for the day and show the children’s movie, Sing in the parking lot at 8 p.m. Admission will be free of charge.

On Saturday, everyone will be allowed to purchase luminaries for five dollars each. Luminaries are white paper bags that are purchased in memory or honor of anyone who is or was battling cancer. The bags will play a part in the special ceremony that will be held at 9 p.m. on Saturday.

“It is actually my favorite part of the entire evening,” said American Cancer Society member Kay Franklin. “It is by far the most solemn part. Each of the bags represents a person and their fight with cancer.”