This is an article from the April 29, 2010 edition of The Mena Star written by Andy Philpot
RELAY PROVIDES TIME TO CELEBRATE, REMEMBER
For three consecutive years, the Relay For Life has been on Mena's spring schedule through the organization of Regina and Richie Lawry, as well as a collection of devoted volunteers that have given the residents of Mena an opportunity to celebrate. This is no ordinary celebration though, as it is a chance to celebrate the victories of life, as well as the lives once close to us.
The fact remains that there is currently no cure for cancer, but through the American Cancer society, efforts are continually being made towards defeating the disease, and according to Regina Lawry, to have a day where no one will have to hear the words "you have cancer". Relay For Life has become an annual event in Mena that not only gives locals an opportunity to celebrate, but also to raise funds toward the ongoing battle against cancer as a cure is sought out.
Cancer touches so many of our lives, whether directly, or in the form of having a friend, family member, or loved one who has battled the condition. Relay For Life is organized to give those who have claimed victory against the disease a chance to showcase they are a survivor, as well as recognize the importance of the caregivers who are so crucial in the battle as well.
In the months leading up to the Relay celebration, teams are formed throughout the community to raise funds in a variety of ways, which all go to the American Cancer Society in efforts of reaching a cure. Teams range from businesses across town, to churches, to schools, to organizations, all working toward the same goal of continuing the fight against cancer. The response has been overwhelming over the past three years, with totals this year exceeding $48,000 raised for the American Cancer Society.
As the yearly event kicks off with its welcome from organizer Regina Lawry, the Survivor Walk is truly an inspiration, as local cancer survivors all sporting their purple shirts take laps to showcase their victory over cancer, and the collection of people are your friends, family, and co-workers. The survivor lap is accentuated with smiling faces both of those walking, and those witnessing a sight of celebration of another year of life.
With musical performances throughout the night, the environment is that of a party, but while there is time to celebrate, there is also a time to remember those who we have lost to cancer. Leading up to the Relay event, luminary bags are purchased, each in honor of someone who has either battled cancer, or has been lost to the disease. When the lights are dimmed, and the candles are aglow within the named luminary bags, the names of all the loved ones are read to remember, honor , and celebrate their life as well.
The luminaries each represent a life, and all have a story within them. While they represent the light of that person's life, it also glows throughout the night to represent the hope that continues that one day there will be a cure for cancer.
The Relay celebration is an all night event that lasts until 10:00 A.M. the following morning, in representation that "cancer never sleeps", and throughout the night, team members can be seen walking laps until the break of dawn.
Last years Relay event, which was scheduled for late April, was postponed due to the tornado and the damage in Janssen Park, but was held in late May. This year's event was relocated to the CMA facility at Iron mountain due to the rainy weather conditions, but the atmosphere was powerful, and the strong support shown by the community was evident by the numbers in attendance, and certainly with the total funds raised.
Relay For Life dates back to May of 1985 when Dr. Gordon Klatt wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of his patients, and walked a track for 24 hours, and throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him. He walked approximately 83 miles and raised $27,000 to fight cancer. The following year the first official Relay For Life event was organized, and now the event has grown to include nearly four million people over 5,000 communities across the United States.
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I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled The Little Things - Devotionals from a small town, using articles from the column. I published the second book in the Devotionals from a small town series, titled In the Fog, in December 2017.