Upcoming Relay for Life to honor cancer survivors
Jerri Cooper is a cancer survivor.
Four and a half years ago, Cooper had a kidney removed as a result of her cancer and counts herself among the lucky to have remained in remission.
"It just made me want to fight back and save some other lives," Cooper said. "Every year I get a little more confident."
Last year she organized a Tonganoxie chapter of Relay for Life, with the help of the American Cancer Society, to benefit those affected by cancer in the Heartland. Last year's relay raised $26,500 for the American Cancer Society, Cooper said, and proceeds remained within the Heartland.
This year's Relay for Life will be held from 6 p.m. May 12 to 6 a.m. May 13 at Tonganoxie's VFW Park. The relay celebrates survivors, supports those still fighting the disease and honors those who have died from the disease.
The relay consists of teams that have at least one member running, walking or sitting on the track at all times during the 12-hour event. Teams will arrive toting all of the necessities for a night's campout in the park.
Organizers will hold a contest for best decorated tent. Each team member pays $10 to participate and receives a T-shirt with the Relay for Life emblem.
Merchant sponsors of the event that donate $100 or more will have their company logos printed on the back of the event T-shirts.
Cancer survivors will walk the first lap of the relay, Cooper said. Then the teams will join them.
A luminary ceremony will begin at 9 p.m. as a visual reminder of the struggle against cancer. Organizers will line the edges of the path with luminary candles to represent those fighting cancer and those who didn't survive. The event will include speeches by the mayors of Tonganoxie and Basehor, and a pizza party is planned at 11 p.m. A refreshment booth will be open as well, and all proceeds will be donated to the society.
Cooper said she was particularly excited to have disc jockey Sterling Thomas from Oldies 95 to provide music from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
A team captain from last year's relay who did not have cancer at the time, has since been diagnosed with cancer, Cooper said. He will participate this year as someone fighting the disease.
"It just seems like it strikes when you least expect," Cooper said. "Nobody knows whether they will be fighting cancer next year."
In addition to raising money to fight cancer, Cooper said the purpose of the relay is to educate the public about how many people fight cancer. In Kansas alone, 12,000 new cancer cases were reported in 1999, according to the American Cancer Society. Survivors will receive a free T-shirt for attending the event, even if they don't participate in the relay. The public is encouraged to attend the event as well.
Cooper said she had done most of the organizing herself. However, her daughter Teresa Frye and Kim Kolman have supported her and helped with organizing and promoting the event.
Organizing the event has been like a second job, Cooper said. When she gets home from work at Payless Cashways in Kansas City, Kan., she goes to work organizing the relay. She said she thinks her hard work is worth it.
"I feel like if what I do saves one life, it'll be worth it," Cooper said.
For more information or to participate, contact Cooper at 845-9132 or Kolman at 369-2941.