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I’m ashamed to admit this, but Friday night was the first Marion County Relay for Life event I’ve ever participated in. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve attended numerous Relay for Life events, but always from behind the lens of my camera. I’ve never actually been a part of the event, so to speak.
But, this year I had the honor of not only covering the event for the Enterprise but also being on a team. My team, Princess of the CUREibbean, was organized in honor of my classmate and friend, Nicole Cambron Thompson, who continues her fight against breast cancer. (I’m happy to report her final radiation treatment is Friday.)
This year’s event was also Nicole’s first, and it’s no surprise to me that her team was named rookie team of the year for its fundraising efforts, which exceeded $4,000. From pizza sales and roadblocks to garden tours and jewelry sales, the team tried to raise as much money as possible for the American Cancer Society. And we weren’t alone. Every team that participated in Relay for Life tried to raise as much money as possible to fund research that will hopefully, one day, lead to a cure.
Marion County should be very proud that it raised more than $51,500 this year. That’s more than a $10,000 increase from last year’s total. And, might I add, this year’s change of location was ideal, in my opinion. Lebanon Middle School was a perfect location, and would be even better if those in attendance were allowed to use the school’s restroom facilities. Let that be a goal for next year. Port-a-potties in the dark are a little tricky. But, I’m not complaining. It’s just a suggestion.
One particular portion of this year’s event that I found extremely moving was the luminary ceremony. Again, I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’ve never stayed late enough to experience that part of the event. It’s difficult to get photos in the dark, so in the past I’ve always left long before that portion of the event started. Friday, I found out what I’ve been missing. To hear the names of those who have been affected by cancer read aloud, especially the names of those who are no longer here with us, is moving, to say the least. But to hear the names of your friends read aloud - the friends you grew up with, went to school with, and had slumber parties with - that’s more than moving. It’s terrifying. Within the last two years, two of my classmates and friends have been diagnosed with cancer. That’s two too many. And, honestly, it’s been a huge reality check for me and for many of my friends. It’s shown us that no one is immune from this horrible disease, and that we must continue to do everything we possibly can to help find a cure.
As the luminary ceremony came to an end Friday evening, everyone walked a lap in honor and in memory of all the people whose names had just been read aloud. The song “Amazing Grace” played over the loud speakers and I watched as my friend, Nicole, her husband and their three children took each others’ hands and walked together. It’s an image I’ll have ingrained in my memory from now on. It’s an image that captures what Relay for Life is all about – celebrating life and never, ever giving up hope.