The Duncan Banner
Cancer survivors and caregivers began arriving for the Survivors Dinner about 4:45 p.m. Thursday, roughly 45 minutes before registration was scheduled to begin. But this was a positive thing to Relay For Life committee members.
This was a sign the ninth annual event could prove to be the largest yet.
Most years, the event has about 100 people. Last year’s event had about 95 survivors and caregivers in attendance.
“I think we may have more than last year,” Cookie McCullough, survivors committee member, said.
McCullough and Pat Bowles head up the Survivors Celebration Dinner every year and have for a while. Both are cancer survivors and have remained active in Relay For Life. The non-profit organization, which is a fundraising effort of the American Cancer Society, works to raise money for cancer research and to help cancer patients.
The two women said the dinner is one of their favorite things leading up to the annual Relay For Life. This year’s Relay is set for 6 p.m. June 7 to 6 a.m. June 8 at Halliburton Stadium. They said the focus of the dinner is the same as the first lap every year at Relay For Life.
“We really enjoy it,” McCullough said about the dinner. “It’s all about the survivors.”
And this year, there were more than 100 cancer survivors and caregivers in attendance. The Simmons Center was set up for 240 people.
McCullough and Bowles said this year had some familiar faces, but there were a lot of new cancer survivors in attendance this year. Among the new survivors was Joann Hodges, who has been battling cancer since September.
“I go once a week (for treatment),” Hodges said. “I’m ready to get through it. They’re wonderful at the Cancer Center.”
Hodges was a bit overwhelmed by the Survivors Dinner, but was glad to see so many people in attendance. She was invited to the event by McCullough, who is her neighbor.
The Relay For Life of Stephens County committee spent time make sure people were invited to the Survivors Dinner. The group mailed out 100 invites, invited people at the Cancer Center and put signs in doctors’ offices.
The Relay committee aimed to get a bigger attendance to honor more people who are fighting or have won their battle against cancer.
The tables were decoracted with purple, the color of survivors. McCullough received help from people at New Hope Baptist Church West to make the decorations come together.
The guest speaker was Doug Baker, who talked about his late wife, Karen, and other family members who have battle cancer. The musical entertainment was Keith Woods, who is a member of the band Summer Breeze.
At the end of the night, Bowles presented an award named after her and for which she was the first recipient. The Pat Bowles Spirit of Relay Award went to Sharon Brooke, who has been active in Relay For Life for at least seven years.
In the award presentation, Brooke was brought to tears. She gave credit to her mother, Sandi Phelps, for inspiring her to get involved in Relay For Life.
“The reason I Relay is because of that woman,” Brooke said.