Young cancer survivor to preside over event

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

This weekend’s Seventh Annual Mississippi Gran Prix will bepresided over by a special guest who knows firsthand the benefitsof the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.

Ten-year-old Colby Barrett is the personification of thehospital, for which this weekend’s bicycle races are intended toraise around $100,000. He currently serves as its 2008 champion andwill arrive in Brookhaven at Just Kiddin’ at 4 p.m. Friday topreside over the weekend’s races as grand marshal.

“We are more than happy to have him come to our store,” saidJust Kiddin’ owner Joe Fleming. “It’s going to be a great event.We’re planning on a big crowd here.”

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The reason Fleming expects a big crowd for Barrett’s arrival isnot so much because of who Barrett is, but what he stands for.Barrett is a cancer survivor, and it is only fitting that he is theguest of honor for the race that will raise money for the hospitalthat helped save his life.

Two years ago, doctors discovered that Barrett had embryonalrhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that develops from forming muscletissues in the embryonic stage. The soft tissue cancer is the samethat affected world famous biker Lance Armstrong.

After a year of chemotherapy and intensive radiation treatment,Barrett is now in remission, and serves as a healthy product of theBlair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

Much preparation is going toward Barrett’s arrival.

As grand marshal of the weekend’s races, Barrett will be theguest of honor for a multitude of activities, such as raffles andgiveaways. Drawings will be held for a gas cooker from CenterpointEnergy, a Rockenbock train set from Just Kiddin’ and a a six-monthfamily subscription to Human Performance Co.

Barrett, of Brandon, will also serve as the first racer of theevent that is expected to draw approximately 80 cyclists toBrookhaven. He is scheduled to challenge Just Kiddin’ mascots Mojoand Cassie to the first bike race of the weekend.

Fleming is pulling out all the stops to welcome Barrett toBrookhaven. If Barrett’s welcoming party is large enough, Flemingplans to undergo a few changes.

“If we can put 100 people in front of my store to welcome Colby,I will be glad to shave my head for this event,” Fleming said. “Ifwe can get 200 people to stand in front of the store, I will get myhead shaved and wear a dress in the store for a day. It will be asight to behold.”

Fleming may well be headed for a day of cross dressing, asrepresentatives from more than 30 businesses, such as TrustmarkNational Bank, Wrights Fabrics and Columbus Lumber, are scheduledto be at Just Kiddin’ to commemorate the start of the granprix.

Tom “War Cloud” Bandaries, a Native American artist and formerNASA astronaut, is also scheduled to be present for Barrett’swelcoming party. Bandaries, himself a cancer survivor, is planningto bring pieces of his NASA gear and memorabilia to display.