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Organizers hoping teams flock to annual Relay for Life

Planning has begun in earnest for the May 2 Relay for Lifecancer walk, as the first organizational meeting of the year washeld Wednesday at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility.

The purpose of the meeting was to officially register the firstwalking teams, spread the word to form and invite new teams andplan a campaign to raise awareness of, and funding for, the cancerwalk.

The 2008 Relay for Life will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 2,on the grounds of the Exchange Club Park. Teams for the event mayregister online by following the American Cancer Society link onthe left hand side of www.kdmc.org, or by attending the next relaymeeting, which will be held on Feb. 27 at noon in the Crowley Roomat KDMC.

Relay for Life has several ideas to publicize the Relay.Officials plan to approach Brookhaven Mayor Bob Massengill and theLincoln County Board of Supervisors with a request that the week ofApril 28 be declared Cancer Awareness Week.

Regina Terry, chairwoman for Lincoln County Relay for Life, saidrelay organizers were also going to “paint the town purple” bytying purple ribbons all over the town and county in effort toraise cancer awareness. It’s a method that has worked well in thepast.

“We’ve had a good deal of success promoting the walk with thepurple ribbons – we’ve put them all over the county before,” Terrysaid. “Even today, if you drive way out in the county, you canstill find ribbons tied around trees from last year.”

The purpose of publicizing Relay for Life, of course, is toattract more walkers to the event. The more walkers, the more mileswalked and the more money raised for cancer research.

Relay officials are hoping to reach a new milestone this year bygoing over the six-digit mark in fundraising.

“Every year I’ve been involved with Relay for Life in LincolnCounty, we’ve grown,” Terry said. “Last year, we raised $98,000,and this year we hope we can take it over.”

In order to help reach that six-figure goal, the King’sDaughters Medical Center (KDMC) team will bring back an old relaytradition this year – the plastic pink flamingo.

For a fee, people can call the KDMC team and request thatsomeone’s yard be “flocked,” or peppered with pink flamingos. Oncesomeone has been flocked, they can have the KDMC team remove theflamingos – for a fee.

People who do not feel the flamingo spirit can buy insurancefrom the KDMC team against being flocked, although that insurancepolicy may be outbid by an eager flocker.

The hospital’s team will also sell T-shirts in association withthe flamingo fundraiser that read “Get the Flock Out of My Yard.”The team will carry out the flocking clandestinely by loading intovans and cruising the neighborhood after dark.

“I can just tell this will be a great time and a great relay,”Terry said. “We’ve got new faces, new teams, good ideas – it’s areally exciting opportunity every year.”

Of course, the opportunity springs from past challenges. Most ofthe relay organizers – especially the truly committed ones – haveseen cancer, face to face.

“Everyone here has these stories,” said Terry, whose owndaughter, Elizabeth, 18, has battled cancer of the salivary gland.”We have a lot of division and discrimination in our world, butcancer does not discriminate.”

The KDMC team, made up of personnel from the medical field, hasseen and helped others battle disease. It received a platinumplaque for its efforts in raising at least $10,000 for the 2007relay.

Also receiving the platinum award was One Family United AgainstCancer, a team consisting of the family members of Lincoln CountyCircuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins. Several members of the Watkinsclan have fought against cancer.

Jennifer Jackson, director of the King’s Daughters Foundation,is a recent survivor of breast cancer. She shared her story at themeeting to answer the question of “why we relay.”

“I was in a breast cancer awareness meeting, and someone spokeup and said, ‘By the time we have this meeting next year, someonein this room will have been diagnosed with breast cancer,'” Jacksonsaid. “Little did I know that it would be me.”

Jackson told the story of how she missed her annual mammogramand was forced to reschedule later in the year. At thatexamination, cancer was discovered. She lamented to the doctor thatshe should have had had her mammogram earlier in the year.

“But the doctor told me that if I’d had my exam on schedule inMay, the cancer would have been so small it probably wouldn’t havebeen detected,” Jackson said. “The Lord works in mysteriousways.”