Relay for Life

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Event Set June 10-11

relay for lifeThe Relay for Life organization was established to honor cancer survivors, and this year marks the fourth year for the event in Panola County. Joni Reed has been the catalyst for the program. Reed states, "I’ve had a lot of cancer in my family. My daughter Nicole had cancer as a young child. At that time, I was a single parent, and I had no idea there were things out there available to help me.  With the help of my family, I just kinda muddled through it. My sister was diagnosed with colon cancer. She fought really hard for two years, but we lost her in May, 2003. 

Two days after we buried her, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, then the following September was diagnosed with colon cancer.  I had extensive treatments which nearly killed me. During that time when I was taking my treatments, a close friend of mine was participating in the Shelby County Relay for Life in honor of me being a cancer survivor. Several of us from the church went down there just to see what it was. I was just in awe--I could not believe everybody was having such a good time. It was such a good thing. The luminaria ceremony was just overwhelming for me. I was so emotional because of everything I had been through. I said to myself, Panola County needs this. After I got home, I thought, boy, this is going to be so much work, but then it just kept tugging at me. One day at lunch I just picked up the phorelay for lifene and called the American Cancer Society, and two days later they met with me. That was in January before the first one in June, so we had to really get the ball rolling, but it was so successful. They said we would probably raise about $15,000 the first year, but we surprised them with a total over $118,000!"

relay for lifeThe Relay for Life will be held June 10-11 in Carthage at Martin Stadium. Sixteen teams will create "campsites" on the field using the Disney theme, and each will be selling various items to help raise money. The event begins with a survivor lap at 7:00 PM and continues throughout the night with a variety of laps and activities for adults as well as children. These activities and walking laps are open to anyone that would like to be a part of the festivities. Often people ask why the event lasts all night--according to the American Cancer Society it symbolizes that "Cancer Never Sleeps." Nights are long for cancer patients, but when the sun rises in the morning, the light of day brings hope.

Many people think the money raised with Relay for Life goes to research. That's not the case. Monies collected help to fund such things as wigs and prosthesis, medicines and transportation, scholarships for children with cancer and support groups that can be contacted 24/7.

If someone is a cancer survivor and would like to be a part of the special events, contact Joni Reed at 903.692.9092 or Nicole Coleman at 903.692.1765.  According to Reed, "If you don’t call ahead, come by 6:30 that night, we’ll register you then, and you can be part of the opening lap. We want as many survivors as possible to come. We want the community to come out and donate to the cause, even if it's just to buy a soda. The luminaria ceremony is to honor the survivors as well as those that were lost to cancer.  I tell everybody if you don’t stay for anything else, at least stay for the luminaria ceremony. It will definitely have an impact on you."

I want Panola County to know that we appreciate everything they've done the last several years. - Joni Willis Reed

Relay for Life Committee Members
Leah Hanks/Ginger Jones- Events
Cassie Miller-Teams
Brandi LaLonde-Activities
Deanie Berry- Luminaries
Joni Reed/Nicole Coleman-Survivors
Debbie Bennett-Sponsors
Tickets-Sheila Bozeman