Hundreds of people in Hopkins County dedicate one weekend in May each year to race for a cure to kick out cancer. On Saturday, a special dinner will be held for those who have already given the disease the boot or are surviving a battle with cancer.
The Relay For Life of Hopkins County Cancer Survivors Dinner will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the gymnasium at First United Methodist Church, with entertainment, fun, fellowship and a feast prepared by the Aguilar family.
In past years the survivors dinner was held in the church’s Family Life Center fellowship area, but the event’s popularity has outgrown that venue.
“It’s grown to the point this year we had to move it somewhere bigger, so it’ll be in the gym,” said Jane Kivell, Relay For Life publicity chair.
For planning purposes, cancer survivors have been asked to register ahead of time. Some survivors complained — and legitimately so, said one Relay official — when letters mailed out in advance were slow to arrive in mailboxes.
Relay For Life Chairman Tony Aguilar issued an apology for the delay in getting out the letters of invitation to cancer survivors. He said the invitations were slowed by a combination of the recent series of winter storms and illness that struck some Relay committee members.
“We apologize, but we’re doing the best we can,” Aguilar said.
For those who haven’t already registered in advance, Aguilar said there’s no cause for alarm. Cancer survivors who want to attend the dinner still have time to RSVP, or they can simply sign up on Saturday, either at the Kiwanis Pancake Day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. a the Civic Center or at the door.
“They can register that day at the Pancake Day or just show up at the dinner at 6:30,” he said. “We planned on 250 people for the dinner, and we’ve got about 200 signed up right now, so we should be in good shape.”
“This is an evening for survivors,” added Kivell, the Relay publicity chairman. “We want every survivor to come, regardless if they were diagnosed today, yesterday or 10 years ago, even if they’re not registered.. There’s plenty for everyone, so we welcome all cancer survivors and their caregiver, family and loved ones.”
Overall, event planners will prepare 35 round tables, which seat up to 10 people each.
The whole point of the free event is to commemorate the lives of residents who have survived cancer, while offering the hope of finding a cure. The theme for the survivors dinner, as always, is birthdays “because every day of survival is a day to celebrate.”
In keeping with that theme, the event will be a true “fiesta” right down to the birthday cake, piñatas and live entertainment.
“We are looking forward to paying tribute to the tremendous journey that cancer survivors have been on,” said Kivell. “It’s going to be fun. We’ll have cake, lots of food – tamales, chips, dips, meat and rice. There’s plenty for everyone. We’ll even have two piñata filled with candy. At Relay and the survivor’s dinner, everyone understands the challenges that cancer survivors have overcome and there is peace of mind knowing that together we can face the challenges ahead.”
With Relay For Life Committee Chairman Tony Aguilar serving as master of ceremonies, the evening’s show will include fancy rope tricks performed by professional roper Geraldo Brabo and the Macochina dancers.
Of course, no party is complete without a birthday cake. Annette Johnson will once again be making one of her Kingdom Cakes to celebrate the occasion. The cake she prepared last year was at least five layers. The top of the cake was a huge “piece” of “four layer” chocolate cake with ribbons and three three edible “candles.” Beneath the giant “piece” of cake were three large round layers of cake with purple icing, Relay For Life’s signature color. The bottom layer was a large white-iced square with “The Light of Hope” sacks which represent the luminaries dedicated in honor or memory of those who have battled cancer that will shine around the walking track at the May 13-14 Relay For Life event. Instead of “lighting” candles, Johnson put small lights in the white sack to stand in as beacons of hope in the battle against cancer. Beside each sack was a ribbon, each with one or more different colors to represent various types of cancer.
The Feb. 19 survivors dinner will also include fun games and activities such as naming the oldest and youngest survivors present. Some survivors will also share their stories with the group, including some area youth.
Members from some of the Relay For Life teams will also be on hand to help serve food and keep the fun going. Of course, on display will be several donated boots in various stages of wear representing the people lost to cancer, yet painted in festive colors to represent the hope for a future without cancer, if recent developments in cancer research continue to fruition. Through events such as Relay For Life funds can be raised for the American Cancer Society to further that research as well as provide services for those currently affected by cancer.
All attending the survivors dinner are encouraged to bring their old used, worn out boots to the dinner to the signal their commitment to “kicking out cancer,” this year’s Relay For Life theme.
Cancer survivors can sign up to participate in the Feb. 19 dinner in First United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center by calling Cindy Smithers at 903-885-8762 or Mynder Nash at 903-885-6633. Relay For Life also plans to have a table set up at the Kiwanis Pancake Day, to be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.
More information about Relay For Life, forming or making online donations to teams or individual team members may also be obtained at www.relayforlife.org/hopkinscotx. For more information about the American Cancer Society, call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.
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