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Relay for Life puts faces to pain caused by cancer

Speaking about the importance of the Relay for Life is difficult, Cabot Relay for Life chairperson Deanna Carpenter said in an interview Monday. “You’re going to make me cry,” she said when asked about why she agreed to coordinate the event.

Her own fear is that the event has become routine and that the individuals who rely on the hope the Relay gives, and those working to end the disease, are becoming lost from sight, Carpenter said. “Everybody does fundraisers, [people] are asked a thousand times to donate or this or that.”

The Cabot Relay for Life will be held May 3 at Cabot Panther Stadium; individual registration is open up to the Relay, Carpenter said. Register online at relayforlife.org, or at the stadium, she said.

The event begins at 6 p.m. and will continue all night to about 5 a.m., May 4.

The opening ceremony will include the Survivors’ Lap, reserved to those who have beaten the disease and those still fighting it, Carpenter said.

Keynote speaker for the event will be announced, Carpenter said.

The Luminaria Ceremony will be held about dusk, Carpenter said. “For me, this is about the most touching part of the Relay,” she said.

Luminaria, paper bags lighted by a candle, each bearing the name of a victim, or someone struggling against cancer, will encircle the stadium track; others will spell “hope” in the stands.

The stadium lighting is turned off and, with only the light of the luminaria, the names of family members and friends who lost their battle are read aloud, Carpenter said.

Relay events continue all night, Carpenter said. The night will include contests such as Little Miss Relay Sunday dress pageant, Little Mr. Superhero, games and other entertainment, including background music by a DJ. “We will finish up at 5 with awards for individual teams,” Carpenter said. The total fund-raising goal is $15,000.

“I want to put faces on what we are asking for,” Carpenter said.

“That is why it has the theme of ‘Heroes for Hope,’ to remember everyone struggling against this disease … I want to put faces on everything about the Relay, about the people who are struggling against cancer, those who have it, and those who are trying to stop it,” Carpenter said.

“I want to celebrate people, and make the Relay more personal,” Carpenter said. Each team “campsite” will reflect that team’s personal hero; why they relay,” she said.

Her own family team remembers her aunt, an avid deer hunter, with a hunting motif, Carpenter said. “This is the way I remember her, up in a deer stand; not going through treatments.

“We are here for individuals, to encourage you, or to grieve with you if that is what you need,” Carpenter said.

The teams are as individual as the people they represent, Carpenter said. While some are sponsored by organizations and businesses, there are many teams made up of family members of those who have battled cancer, she said.

The Relay for Life, the ACS signature fund-raising event, is entering its 28th year. The event grew from the 1985 personal fundraiser Dr. Gordy Klatt, a 24-hour marathon.

As far as such events such as the Relay are concerned, she began planning the Cabot Relay for Life, “a little late.” She said she knows someone who works at the Little Rock ACS and, “I said that if you ever need anyone, just call,” Carpenter said. That call came in October.

A Jacksonville native, Carpenter said she is married to a former military member, who got out of the military to pursue a career in music. They had moved to Nashville and while there she worked at that city’s ACS office in community education and support groups.

When children began arriving, her husband chose to give up the traveling music scene and found a job at Cabot, Carpenter said.

On a personal level, her aunt died of lung cancer two years ago, Carpenter said. “So that is still pretty fresh on my heart and in my mind; this is something that I want to do for her,” she said.

Though a previous ACS employee, her work as Cabot Relay for Life is “all volunteer,” Carpenter said.

“God puts you in different places for different reasons. Having been [at ACS] and knowing their mission … and being touched personally by my aunt, it put me in the position of being a volunteer here,” Carpenter said.

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