September 21, 2023

Celebrate More Birthdays through Relay for Life

By Sonya Lavett
Thirteen years ago, Heather Davison approached Vicki Barnes, co-chair of Gulf Coast Relay for Life, with this question: Why is CSU not involved in the community’s Relay for Life? It was a seemingly casual question, but one that would have a lasting impact on the university as well as the community.

Within two years, both Heather and Vicki would be touched in a very personal manner by this permeating disease. Vicki developed breast cancer and Heather’s husband, Chuckie, was diagnosed with melanoma. Sadly, after fighting his disease with the support of his wife and family, Chuckie lost his battle. Vicki is now 10 years’ cancer free.

Before either of these women knew just how personal the fight to celebrate more birthdays would become, CSU formed a Relay for Life team, competing at the event and bringing home the most first place finishes. Vicki fondly remembers that first year. “We had such a great time and have been solidly committed since 2003.”

Once you become part of this amazing movement, it is easy to see why more and more individuals participate in Relay for Life each year. For those who have been struck with cancer, the shock and fear can be overwhelming. Just knowing that there is hope and available resources is the kind of thing that individuals and families need under such serious circumstances.

By getting in touch with the American Cancer Society and participating in community Relay for Life events, people who live with cancer soon come to discover that they are certainly not alone. While no one would ever wish this terrible disease on another human being, it is comforting to know that there are others there walking along beside you, prepared to support you throughout the entire journey.

Relay for Life is all about the various communities in which it is present because it is part of the global community. If you visit the American Cancer Society’s website, you can see some of the many testimonies of Relay for Life participants.

When asked, “What was your moment?” one participant responded, “The year I was diagnosed with colon cancer, I was asked to come walk in the luminary ceremony. It was then that it hit my 10-year-old son what was going on. This was a very emotional time for us surrounded by family and friends. I knew then I/we would beat it. We are now a growing team and cancer free!!!!”

Almost everyone in our community can say that they know someone or have personally been affected by cancer. We relay in memory for all those we have lost and for those that have won the fight and still continue the battle. We relay for the hope that one day we will not have to live in a world where cancer exists and destroys families.

The CSU Relay for Life Team Captain, Amanda Crinks, described some of the activities at Relay event on September 12. “The best part of the whole event was the luminaria at the end. This is a time when participants mostly remember those who have lost the fight. The track is lined with bags filled with candles and the bags have individuals’ names, and sometimes stories of their personal experiences. Once the sun begins to set, the candles are lit and participants walk the track; the whole experience is incredibly emotional. This year, the team weighed each bag down with a canned item, and at the end of the event, the canned goods were donated to Christian Life Church.”

Vicki Barnes added, “At the event, our team took turns walking around the track to raise money and awareness to help the American Cancer Society in the world’s largest movement to end cancer. We always have such a great time with all other teams in our community competing against each other for bragging rights for the year. Our team is taking action to help finish the fight. The funds we raise truly make a difference in the fight against cancer. Just ask one of the nearly 14 million cancer survivors who will celebrate another birthday this year.”

The event on Saturday helped to raise more than $50,000. These funds will go toward research and resources for individuals and families who are affected. A special thanks goes to CSU staff members Amanda Crinks, Vicki Barnes, Theresa Enfinger, Joy Esposito, Mona McPherson, Josh Mildren, Sonya Kopp, Khalilah Burton, Jaynae Carpenter, Andrea Ciofalo, and Matt Brust who brought his mom, Jennifer Brust, a cancer survivor.

Let’s celebrate more birthdays!

Please join our team, make a donation to our event or join one closer to your community.

Saving lives from cancer starts with one team, one participant, and one dollar at a time. It is a crusade worth fighting for.