Hundreds participate in Relay for Life in Morgan City
MORGAN CITY, La. — Hundreds of people turned out to battle cancer Saturday afternoon and into the wee hours of Sunday morning in the East St. Mary Relay for Life held in front of the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium.
“We can beat this thing,” Evelyn Wilson of Patterson said minutes after taking part in the opening Survivors Lap. Wilson is a 12-year cancer survivor.
Wilson said that she was speechless when the doctor told her she had cancer but the next morning she woke up and said, “No, cancer. You can’t take me at this time.” She said she is cancer-free now but devotes her time to fighting the disease.
People began showing up for Relay well before it started at 5 p.m. When the Survivors Lap started about an hour later dozens of cancer survivors were cheered on by family, friends and supporters.
Noel Birriel, this year’s chairwoman, was pleased at the turnout and support. She had worked for months organizing the Relay and the events that preceded Saturday’s community fight against cancer.
“It was great to see so much support and media attention,” Birriel said. She said about $10,000 was raised over the weekend.
College-bound Morgan City High seniors dressed in outfits made of newspaper spoke about why they participated in the event activities, especially its fashion show.
Kloe Liner and McKenna Aloisio said that they were having a good time and glad to “put our creativity and teamwork to the test for a good cause.” They credited classmates Nicole Perri and Gracie Dragna as the designing geniuses behind the outfits that they wore as they tried to do their part in the search for a cure of cancer.
Two weeks ago the police and fire departments of East St. Mary Parish participated in a blood drive which was part of the Guns and Hoses Battle for the Paddle, a good-natured competition to raise money for Relay.
When the amounts of blood and cash donations were tabulated, the Hoses (firefighters) won easily, according to Christina Leonard, activities chairwoman. She said that Morgan City Fire Department earned the recognition of having the most members donate.
The second part of the Guns and Hoses competition, a jambalaya and gumbo cook-off, will be rescheduled for a yet-to-be determined date and time.
Grade-school children scurried about the parking lot in the hour before sunset looking for items in a scavenger hunt that often involved others.
“I need a picture of me with someone with a long sleeved shirt,” pleaded one youngster as he posed for a picture taken with his smart phone. “Do you have a hard candy?” asked another little girl. One child was going booth to booth in search of a brown paper bag.
As the sun set and night crept in, the emotional luminaria took place. Josh Ashley and Josh Lee Francois of the Morgan City Fire Department placed a pair of helicopter landing zone flashing lights in four large luminaria bags. The lights had been loaned by their department and the Bayou Vista Volunteer Fire Department.
Relay for Life participants solemnly remembered loved ones lost to cancer and honored those battling the disease by dedicating luminaria “candles” and bags. Each luminaria was personalized with a name, photo, and perhaps a message in memory or honor of a friend or loved one affected by cancer.
About 500 glow lights were sold and placed in bags, according to Birriel.
“I am buying candles in honor of my grandmother and aunt who both died of cancer,” Katherine Spivey of Bayou Vista said as she held her three children. Her aunt died Dec. 19, 2007, and just under a year later on Dec. 16, 2008, her grandmother died. Her uncle died three months later on March 19, 2009.
Others told similar stories of losing loved ones and the battle that friends and family have fought to defeat the disease.
Shortly after midnight, the event wound down with about 100 people attending and observing the closing ceremony. The ceremony is designed to remember the lives of those lost and the commitment, through Relay, to fight back against cancer for the next 364 days.