Each year, individuals, groups, churches, businesses, families, young, old and people representing everyone in between form teams who are tasked with raising funds for RFL. Past and present cancer fighters are honored for their strength of spirit during what is often their weakest time physically.
Many get involved with RFL to honor or remember love ones, friends, and others because they believe in the cause.
RFL Event Co-Chair Ashley McCracken, RFL is very personal and serious business. She can be counted among the hundreds in Hopkins County who, should they choose, will officially kick off RFL Friday, May 17, at 7 p.m. The survivors lap is open to anyone who has had cancer or is currently fighting cancer.
McCracken’s world shifted about 5 years ago, when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was two months pregnant when I went to the doctor and heard those terrifying words, ‘You have cancer.’ The next few weeks were a blur. I had surgery the next day,” McCracken explained.
One of the hardest parts after that was the interminable waiting: to find out if “I would have to endure treatments during a time in my life that should be filled with joy and anticipation of becoming a new mother”; to find out if the next few years of her life and the beginning of her child’s life “would be robbed of the wonder and excitement because I had to fight for us.”
But, fight she did. And, although she’s thriving today, each successive appointment brings with it a high level of anxiety only people who have or are battling cancer or other similar life-threatening disease or illness can fully comprehend.
“To this day, every single approaching appointment brings with it extreme emotions of nervousness, fear, sadness and worry. Walking in that room is a constant reminder that it could come back,” she conveyed.
McCracken considers herself “one of the lucky ones” because her cancer was diagnosed at an early stage and as of her last test, there was “no cancer spreading through my body, like so many others.”
But, she knows that tomorrow is no guaranty until scientists and doctors through research find definitive means to eradicate the deadlly disease in all forms — not just treating it after it’s discovered.
“Next time, I may not be so lucky. Next time, may be the biggest fight I could ever imagine. Next time, it may be my turn to go through what so many others have gone through,” McCracken noted. “That dreadful day for me has been almost five years ago. I still have the same horrifying feeling in my stomach even telling the story.”
But, even with that threat constantly over her head, it’s not her primary fear. She lives with an even greater one daily.
“Now, I have a much more horrifying feeling when I consider my children facing that day,” she McCracken admitted. “There are so many sweet children in our community who have fought this fight and still are. From Daylan, who is slapping cancer in the face everyday with living a full and beautiful life, to Starr, who is singing ‘I’ll Fly Away’ with the angels, to Micah and Phoebe, who are giving it everything they’ve got right now and so many more.”
Even knowing personally what it’s like to have cancer, to her the idea of a parent having to tend a child diagnosed with cancer is worse.
“I can not imagine being one of their parents. I do not want to be in their shoes. I don’t think I could do what they do, every day. That is why I participate in Relay,” she admitted.
McCracken noted that RFL raises funds for the American Cancer Society, some of which are used to provide services such as drivers to transport patients to and from treatments, hotel rooms for family members, make-overs, prosthetics and even an 800 number manned 24 hours a day, every day to allow people to speak with a someone about their needs.
While those are very important services, McCracken said it’s the research for a cure which ACS helps fund that is most vital.
“The number one priority for the American Cancer Society is research. Yes, ACS does provide many services, but, it’s the research that is going to take the power away from cancer and make it possible for our children to have one less thing to worry about,” McCracken said. “I have two amazing children and I can only pray that God will shelter them from cancer and that my work with Relay for Life and American Cancer Society can make their future better.”
That’s why she urges everyone who is able to participate in RFL by forming a team for the 12-hour event, making donations to current teams, luminaries and other fundraisers.
McCracken assures anyone interested that teams are still welcome to sign up and raise money for RFL. And, those who don’t have a team, but want to walk and raise money are welcome too. Teams can register right up to RFL kickoff this Friday, May 17, at the event’s new location — the downtown square.
As of Saturday morning, RFL of Hopkins County had 27 teams and 576 participants signed up for this year’s event. So far, online, they’ve raise $36,976.11. Leading the charge among teams is the Super Handy and Atwoods team, who’d raise $4,558, reaching the silver team fundraising club level awarded to teams who raise $3,500 or more. Rhonda Neal was the top online participant with $345 collected, putting her in the bronze individual club level for people raising $250 or more; incidentally, that’s more than trip her individual goal of $100.
The goal set last November for the 2013 RFL was to exceed last year’s participation of 28 teams, 287 cancer survivors and fundraising (which grossed $66,520.63). Committee members are hoping to raise $90,000 for ACS, have 35 teams and 288 survivors participating.
Can’t do a team but still want to contribute? Sponsor a luminary in honor or memory of someone who has or is battling cancer.
Check out RFL’s website at www.relayforlife.org/hopkinscotx, to get a luminary form. These will be available until dusk Friday, to give everyone who’s interested a chance to get one. The donation gets a candle in a bag with the honoree’s name and information as designated on the luminary form. These candles generally light the walking path just prior to a ceremony at about 9 p.m. (just after dark). It’s a very moving experience, as those who have lost their battle are generally honored or recognized during the luminary ceremony. The candle represents a the light of hope RFL helps to offer through donations for research.
“This a major part of Relay and we would love for everyone to have the chance to honor a loved one,” said McCracken.
Donations may be made to individual teams or members of teams online at the above address.
In the past, RFL Committee has offered a food which community members purchased to benefit RFL. This year, teams will be selling food, doing raffles and other fundraising exercises at their campsites all night Friday to raise a little more money to help each team and Hopkins County RFL meet their fundraising goals.
All cancer survivors are reminded that survivor t-shirts can be picked up Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the square, and all day Friday too.
Don’t have extra funds to donate to RFL? Show support by strolling downtown Friday, standing along the designated “track” or walking path during the cancer survivors lap at 7 p.m. and caregiver’s lap clapping for each and every participant who make the journey.
“Please join us in celebrating those who have won the fight and are currenly fighting, remember those who lost their battle and fight back against this vicious disease that robbs us of so much in our lives. We hope to see you on the square on May 17 at 7 p.m.,” McCracken invites.
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