WINNSBORO — Shared testimonies and uplifting music kicked off this year’s Fairfield County Relay For Life on May 24. Around 100 people attended at the beginning with more joining as the night progressed.
During the speeches leading up to the walk’s start, cancer patient Ashley Bradham shared her story and inspired the crowd. Just a week before the event, she learned that her breast cancer had gone into remission thanks to a remarkable response of her body to chemotherapy.
After eight months of treatment, including chemotherapy from February to April, she now is in a special trial with 15 weeks of therapy. She encouraged the crowd to be proactive with health care and to do self-exams as cancer screening.
“Everything happens for a reason. Remember, cancer is not a death sentence. I beat it two times. God is good and with prayer and faith, anything is possible,” Bradham said.
JoAnn Beckham shared her faith story and how the power of Christ helped her and her family through disease and sickness.
Jacqueline McDaniel, the career scoring leader for Winnsboro High girls basketball, shared her story as a two-time cancer survivor, first with breast cancer and then this year being treated for lymphoma.
“By the grace of God we beat the lymphoma,” McDaniel said. “I am a competitive person and played sports (at a high level). I said that cancer was not going to beat me and I beat it two times. Thanks for your support. When you feel down, with no where else to turn, you turn to God and he will answer prayers and enable you to prevail.”
Jackie McDaniel pushed her neighbor, Sherill Perry, who was recovering from foot surgery, in the relay walk. The Perrys live down the road from McDaniel in Jenkinsville and more or less adopted her into their family, providing support when McDaniel’s cancer returned as lymphoma.
Perry said they really bonded with McDaniel since October 2012, noting that McDaniel was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and for the past seven years has received oral and I.V. chemotherapy for lymphoma. During the past year, Perry, has become like a mother to McDaniel.
“Cancer touches everybody. It affects family and friends. It’s bad enough on the patient but the family has to go through it with them. Without family, God and close friends, it would be a real battle to fight by yourself,” McDaniel said.
The testimonies concluded with the crowd holding hands as “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” played. Then survivors took to the track for the survivor’s lap, followed by the caregiver’s lap.
Team member Sherrie Feaster came in support of McDaniel and also in memory of the 15 family members whom Feaster lost to cancer. For Bethel United Methodist Church team leader John Glass, cancer has taken a heavy toll. Glass lost three uncles and his grandfather to cancer and his mother had cancer twice. Also his wife, Darlene, had her father and two of her aunts did of cancer. Their team turned out in support both of people with cancer and of those honoring the memories of loved ones they lost.
Relatives of the late Eddie White formed an impromptu team, “the Big Ed Strutters,” the day of the relay. The team of Kesha White, Kendall White, Derrick Mack Jr., Melissa Pauling, Erica White, Belinda Davis, and Kimberly Jamison raised several hundred dollars at the event.
Once again this year, The Tuff Riders Ford Club set up a tent and served fish sandwiches to the crowd. The Tuff Riders do this service at community events to give back to the community. Proceeds from the fish sandwich sales went back to the relay.
The spirit behind the event and its impact were felt by all, although event organizer Stacy Pearson acknowledged attendance was down a bit due because the relay was rescheduled due to bad weather earlier in the spring. According to Pearson, though, over $12,000 was raised from the teams and from donors with money still coming in.
The food, fellowship and fun built to the highlight of the night, the luminary service honoring cancer patients, cancer survivors, and those who lost their battle with the disease. The song “One Sweet Day” played as luminaries were lit and participants gathered for the moving ceremony where the names written on the luminaries were read.
The luminary service began with a lap of silence that was walked in honor of all those lost to cancer. The somber, sacred time prior to the luminary names being read was set to the music of Vince Gill “Go Rest High on that Mountain.”
Through the tears that were shed and the hugs that were exchanged, participants shared in the loss of loved ones and in the hope that one day they would be reunited with them. They also celebrated birthdays and reminded one another just how precious a gift life is and the important role research and programs funded by Relay for Life can play to extend lives and quality of life.
Contact Kevin Boozer at 635-4016 ext. 14 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @kevinboozer.