No lack of enthusiasm at local Relay for Life event

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, May 26, 2016


AMERICUS — The 2016 Relay for Life of Sumter County started out on a variety of positive, upbeat tunes at roll call during the opening ceremonies of this year’s event held April 29 at Americus-Sumter County Ninth Grade Academy.
As Master of Ceremonies, Ross Youngdale welcomed the crowd and the many teams who showed up to support and celebrate the effort in the fight for a cure for cancer.
The ceremony started with an opening prayer from the Rev. Michael Truitt. Then the Americus Sumter County High School JROTC presented the colors, followed by the National Anthem sung by Keisha Holmes.
The survivor lap started at 6:30 p.m., with the caregivers joining in the lap at 6:45. As team roll call was presented by Youngdale and various Relay for Life teams were announced, Kelly Clarkson’s song “ What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” swept over the field.
As various music themes were portrayed by participating teams, Relay Manager, Jessica Davis, explained the theme of this year’s relay was “Lights, Camera, Relay!” She said, “Each team is   depicting a movie.”
A survivors’ tent stood in the midst of the field where survivors enjoyed each other’s company. One survivor, Jon Suggs, former Americus firefighter for 28 years and a former instructor of state firefighter classes for 10 years, has undergone five surgeries and six rounds of chemotherapy. Suggs said he is presently in remission of bladder cancer; however, he also has leukemia, which Suggs described the doctors expression as, “keeping a watchful waiting” on his prognosis. Suggs added it would not be beneficial for him to address the leukemia at this point in time. So he waits.
Suggs’ wife Mary expressed gratitude for the Veterans Administration. “They have been wonderful throughout the treatment,” she said. “I wake up every morning and keep on smiling,” he added.
As the Sumter County Intermediate School Chorus performed “Purple Rain,” changing some of the lyrics to tie into the cure for cancer, another cancer survivor sat in the crowd, Jennifer Cooper.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer Feb. 1,” said Cooper, explaining she had a lumpectomy and was on her sixth week of radiation treatments. “I am very fortunate I caught it early. I’ve been blessed,” she said adding there were a lot of folks in worse condition than she. “I didn’t have to have chemo,” she said with a smile.

From left, front,are  J.M. Wise, Betty Wise and Betty Jo Songer; in rear is Terry Songer. Betty Wise is a 28-year cancer survivor.

From left, front,are J.M. Wise, Betty Wise and Betty Jo Songer; in rear is Terry Songer. Betty Wise is a 28-year cancer survivor.

Other survivors, J.M. Wise and his wife, 85-year-old Betty Wise,  were found holding hands and walking with their daughter Betty Jo Songer and her husband Terry.
Wise said, “I had skin cancer,” he said as his wife added, “and I had colon/rectal cancer and I have been a survivor since 1988.” Then, her husband added to his wife of 28 years, “When I found out she had cancer, I felt like I had never had cancer,” he said lovingly.
Among other events were fundraisers set up along the outskirts of the field, selling work out clothing, and various snacks and foods such as popcorn, candy, nachos, hot-dogs, tacos, baked goods, drinks, organic snacks, glow sticks, pink lemonade and cupcakes.
The luminary ceremony was held at 9 p.m. and a Talent Show with music and dancing before the closing of the ceremony.

Jennifer Cooper, a recent cancer survivor.

Jennifer Cooper, a recent cancer survivor.

According to Davis, the goal this year is to raise $55,000; at the present time the teams have raised $41,000. “We are waiting on other teams to turn in their numbers,” she said.
Winners of the Best Camp Site were team Georgia Power, and Phoebe Sumter Medical Center is the highest fundraiser. The winners of the Road to Recovery race was the American Heroes team.
Relay for Life teams and fundraisers included Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., Americus Sumter High School, Citizens. Bank, Concentra Solutions, PharmaCentra, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Eaton, Innovative Senior Solutions, Marie Waitsman, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, Sumter County Early Learning Center, Silver Circle Social Civic Club, Southland Academy, Sumter County Angels, Sumter County Elementary School, Sumter County Intermediate School, Sumter County Middle School, Georgia Power, Ameriyouth Outreach, Furlow Charter School, Americus Fire and Emergency Services, 47 Mattie, Americus Sumter Ninth Grade Academy, Zeta Phi Beta, American Heroes, West Central AHSMM, South Georgia Technical College Student Government Association.
Sponsors for the event include Eaton, Citizens Bank of Americus, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, Wells Fargo, Georgia Power, Junior Service League of Americus, The Simmons Insurance Agency and Shiver Lumber Co.