Relay for Life: Time for celebration, remembrance
Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2018
By Ken Gustafson
AMERICUS — Several cancer survivors, their families, care givers and others came out to participate and celebrate the annual Relay for Life event held Friday, March 30, at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW).
Several cancer survivors wearing purple shirts saying “Relay for Life 2018,” along with care givers and others, walked laps around the square in front of the administration building at GSW to raise money for the fight against cancer.
Terry Westbury is on the committee for the local Sumter County Relay for Life. “This is a fundraiser event for the local chapter of Sumter County Relay for Life,” Westbury said. “We raise money for the American Cancer Society. This year, we partnered up with GSW and we’re doing it here on their campus.”
Lila Centerfitt was one of the event organizers. She said that luminaries, such as bags or torches, could be purchased in honor and memory of those who have died of cancer, or in honor of those still fighting the disease.
“The luminaries, people can buy either the bags or the torches, and they buy them in honor of or in memory of people that they have known that have had cancer,” Centerfitt said.
Several cancer survivors were there walking the laps as part of the Relay for Life event. Shirley Mathis, who twice beat breast cancer, was part of a team called the Sumter County Angels, one of many teams there to walk laps and participate in the Relay for Life event. For Mathis, like many other cancer survivors, it meant a lot to be at the event.
“It means a lot to me because I know what I went through when I first had cancer the first time,” Mathis said. “The medical field was not as advanced as it is now. They’re more advanced now … There’s a lot going on, and I want to help everybody.” Bettye Floyd is the team captain of the Sumter County Angels. “We started this group, Sumter County Angels, probably about five or six years ago,” Floyd said. “I’m not Ke
originally from here. I did Relay for Life in Worth County. When I moved here, we started Sumter County Angels. It was a group of people from work and my family, so we decided to do something to help raise money for cancer, so we just formed this group. Every year, we come out here and we sell stuff and we do different types of fundraisers to raise money.”
Gladiola Harris was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, but was able to beat it and has been free of it for the past 12 years.
“It’s a blessing to be here,” Harris said. “The Lord kept me here. I’ll be 82 years old in May. I’m so thankful to be here and in good health. I’m able to take care of myself. It’s truly a blessing and I thank God.”
Another cancer survivor, John Hofeldt, was at the event walking the laps.
“I had prostate cancer way back in 2001. I’ve been OK ever since,” Hofeldt said. “I had a heart incident in 2004. I recovered from that. It’s nice to see that all these people have survived and they’re giving thanks for having survived. People are coming out to support them.”
There were other teams there to participate and raise money for the fight against cancer. One was a group of GSW employees called the Canes Cancer Fighters. Josh Curtin, team captain, said it was an honor to have the event on the GSW campus.
“We love it, and obviously, it’s an opportunity to connect with the institution,” Curtin said. “It’s a beautiful day and we can just really enjoy each other’s company. It’s just a good opportunity.”
Noel and Darlene Schraufnagel, both cancer survivors, came down to see their daughter, Darcy Bragg. Bragg, an employee of GSW, was a member of the Canes Cancer Fighters team.
“I had uterine cancer twice. I was diagnosed in 2012 and it relapsed in 2016,” Darlene said. She said she assumes that she is free from cancer at this time. Her husband, Noel, is a survivor of skin cancer.
There were several groups there as well who set up booths along the walk-ways. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority local chapter was there, as well as Sumter County Fire & Rescue.
PharmaCentra/Concentra Solutions, a call center that employs a lot of college students, was well represented. One of representatives, Amy Parker, said that the company has a whole lot of programs to benefit people.
“We have a pharmacy locator program. We help people locate medications that are hard to find,” Parker said. “We have a prior authorization program. We’re a mediator, a go-between between the patient and the insurance plan. We help get authorizations. We help get authorizations for medications.”
There were other cancer survivors there as well.
Linda Etheridge and Tricia Tissue both recovered from breast cancer. J.M. Wise and his wife Betty also participated. J.M. is recovering from skin cancer, and Betty recovered from colorectal cancer.
A group called “Walking for Poker” participated in the Relay for Life event. Luneda Brown and Amanda Cooper were representing that group. There was also a group from Furlow Charter School and Jason Williams, assistant principal of the school, accompanied the group of students.
As night fell on Americus, it was time for the luminary ceremony. Before the ceremony, Rodney Prowe, assistant pastor of worship at Central Baptist Church, led the group in prayer. To begin the ceremony, each person was given a candle, and they were to light each other’s candle. There were luminary bags with candles inside them placed along two walkways. Each person with a lighted candle lit the candles inside the bags, creating two lighted avenues.
While this was going on, the names of those who had died from cancer, as well as those still fighting the disease, were read laoud as a way to honor and remember them.
There were also lighted torches up at the front of the Administration Building.
During the ceremony, Allie Ochoa sang the song “Never Alone” by Lady Antebellum. The names were read aloud by Ross Youngdale, emcees of the event, and Beckie Dodson.
After the ceremony, awards were given out for the organizations that raised the most money. EATON came in first. The evening ended with some entertainment by Americus Fire & Emergency Services.
All-in-all, it was a wonderful evening of celebrating victory over cancer, as well as honoring and remembering those who have fallen to it and who are still fighting the battle.