COLDWATER, MI (WTVB) - With over 100 people in attendance, one of which was Senator Bruce Caswell, Branch County kicked-off the Relay for Life season last Wednesday at First Baptist Church with laughter and tears. Attendees entered and walked the “red carpet” as they were greeted by committee members. A slide show presentation ran with pictures of past events while attendees enjoyed a breakfast donated by Asama Coldwater Manufacturing. First Baptist Pastor Dave Pierce hosted the program and led the group in prayer giving thanks for those attending and for those who continue their fight against cancer.
Event Chair Cheryl Back and Co-Chair Erica Lane noted this year marks the 100th Birthday of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and with that in mind the committee embraced a Hollywood theme noting that it is also Universal Studio’s 100th Anniversary. Back and Lane invited everyone to “Join The Fight With A Movie Night” on June 21st & 22nd. Helyn Castle was the guest speaker advocating for all cancer patients saying that “only a cancer patient knows how it feels” and continued with all of the humiliating and debilitating feats that a cancer patient undertakes. Chris Kelly, Director of the Cancer Center in Coldwater, explained different ways that ACS helps in the community. He emphasized the Road to Recovery Program that uses volunteers from the local communities to help transport cancer patients to and from their treatments. “Many cancer patients do not continue with their treatments because they do not have means of transportation.” The Road to Recovery is dependent upon volunteers who have time and the means to help with transportation. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Chris Kelly at the Cancer Center for more information. Paul Bair announced Branch County’s involvement this year in the Cancer Prevention Study 3 program which enables individuals who have never had cancer to participate in a research study to help in discovering causes of specific cancers and help with treatments. Enrollment in the study will begin in the evening on June 21st during the event. Survivor and Caregiver recognition was led by Paul & Kathy Bair telling their tale of survivorship and caregiving.
Flowers, donated by A Perfect Petal, were given to survivors honoring them and gifts of appreciation were given to those who have been caregivers. Left over flowers and gifts were taken back to the Cancer Center to distribute among those who could not attend the breakfast. ACS Staff Partner Caralee Waswick explained the importance of becoming an ACS CAN member and how the cancer fight of one college student and her mother’s determination helped to change federal laws so that college students could be covered under their parents healthcare should they be diagnosed with a chronic illness. More information on “Michelle’s Law” can be found on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Morse
Dale Parshall reminded the crowd of the reason to Relay as a Luminaria video was shown in time with the song “You Raise Me Up” signifying that cancer has touched everyone in some way. As tears were wiped away, Jamie Tobalske called the group to action stating that it has been a century since ACS began the fight and that fight needed to end by curing cancer. Tobalske explained the way to do this was to become involved with Relay and forming a team. Goals for 2013 were announced which includes raising “at least $104,000”. Tobalske asked the crowd if they can do it and was met with enthusiasm and cheering which showed the crowd was up for the challenge. Back and Lane provided the Mark of Excellence Award to CHC and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for each team raising over $10,000 in 2012’s event.
The committee extends their thanks and appreciation to Pastor Dave Pierce, Helyn Castle, Asama Coldwater Manufacturing, A Perfect Petal, GNC Coldwater Theatre and First Baptist Church for their generosity for sponsoring the breakfast.