Relay For Life nets more than $21,000

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Lonoke High School cheerleaders Madison Peckat and Dani Hutchins perform at the Relay For Life on Friday night at the Gina Cox Center. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)
The Relay For Life cancer survivors make their way around the concourse area of the Gina Cox Center for the open lap of the relay. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

The 2014 Lonoke Area Relay For Life raised more than $21,000 for the American Cancer Society.

The annual event was held Friday night at the Gina Cox Center in Lonoke.

A year ago, the event raised more than $16,000. Committee co-chairman Lori Cole announced at 11:45 p.m. Friday that $21,742.21 had been raised this year.

This year’s theme was “Finish the Fight.”

“Families, friends, co-workers, business and community leaders, children, grandparents and neighbors are all here tonight for the same reason — finishing the fight and putting an end to cancer,” Cole said in her opening remarks. “This is Lonoke at its finest hour. The next six hours will take us together on a life-affirming journey, symbolizing a day in the life of someone fighting cancer – a disease that never sleeps”

Cole said she and co-chairman Zan Jackson were proud to be standing on the stage at the Relay For Life as both are cancer survivors.

“While each of us has a unique reason for being here, we all have something very much in common — we want to make a difference in the fight against cancer,” Cole said. “We have gathered as a community, determined that those who are facing cancer will be supported, that those who have lost their battle will not be forgotten and that together, we will continue to high back so that one day, no one in Lonoke will hear those dreadful word — ‘you have cancer.’”

Cancer survivor and committee member Jada Huff served as master of ceremonies. She also gave her cancer survivor testimonial.

Huff said her daughter Kaleigh was 13 at the time she was diagnosed with cancer in October 2006.

“I can remember being at home in bed, so angry at the time,” Huff said, referring to her cancer. “I remember thinking, ‘God, you gave her to me … I cannot believe you aren’t going to let me finish the job.’ I kept getting more upset.”

At that point, Huff said she called her pastor, saying she was mad and he told her to tell God.

“God and I had a long talk that night and it doesn’t change the situation,” she said. “I’ve seen people fight it. I think attitude has a lot to do with it. A support system has a lot to do with it. My family and friends stepped up with meals and taking my daughter places, just taking care of things.”

Huff encouraged survivors to take the help when it’s offered.

“Do not be afraid to say, ‘I could use a meal on Friday night,’” Huff said. “Let them know. People really do want to help.”

The Relay Committee honored Lonoke Community Center director Mike Brown for all the years he has let the Relay For Life be held in his facility when rain threatened and it had to be moved inside, including last year.

This year, it looked sparse inside the Gina Cox Center despite all the activity.

“Every year, we want to see the venue packed to capacity,” Jackson said. “This year, as I looked around, I wondered where all the people were but I had to stop and consider how large a facility the Gina Cox Center is.”

Jackson said raising more than $21,000 was a huge accomplishment since the committee got off to a late start this year.

“We were able to get organized and pull it together and have an awesome amount raised to help Finish the Fight against cancer,” she said. “We had an awesome committee and everybody worked really hard to make this a great Relay.”

Jackson said there isn’t an easy answer on getting more people involved with the Relay.

“Hopefully, everybody had a great time and the word will get out and more people will join us next year,” she said. “It’s really a case of ‘if your heart is in it.’ I wouldn’t think of missing the Relay because it has always been such a good and encouraging experience and then, there’s power in numbers and it’s just uplifting to be around so many wonderful people with the common coach of defeating cancer.”

The Lonoke Physical Therapy PT Mobilizers were the top fundraising team this year.

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