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Relay for Life raises funds, awareness

By Staff
RELAY FOR LIFE Anthony Germany, left, Janie Gordon, Camie Heard, Katherine Austin, Bill Larson, Roy Duhe and Edna Moore hold a banner and lead the the Relay for Life Cancer Survivors on Friday in their lap around the track at Ray Stadium. The annual event raises money for the American Cancer Society.Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
June 8, 2002
Music could be heard blocks away. Then laughter. Then the aroma of all kinds of food filled the air the closer you got to Meridian High School on Friday night.
Relay for Life participants trekked to Ray Stadium with backpacks, folding chairs and other essentials for an all night walk-a-thon and party all in an effort to raise money to fight cancer.
Cindy Waters of Meridian, captain of her Relay for Life team, "Cindy's Krewe for a Cure," was one of many who planned to stay to the end at 6 a.m. today shortly after sunrise.
Waters, a registered nurse, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years ago at the age of 31. This weekend was her first Relay for Life experience.
She said her illness, as well as the annual event, has brought her friends and family closer together.
Setting goals
Waters had surgery two years ago and has been taking chemotherapy treatments ever since. She looks forward to working again once all of the cancer is gone.
Waters is working with a group of volunteers she met through the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where she receives her treatments, to help raise awareness of gynecological cancers.
She especially wants to spread the word in rural areas of Mississippi and Alabama.
As Waters waited for Relay to begin, fellow team members took turns stirring a pot of jambalaya simmering under their tent on the football field to help them last the night.
For Austin James of Meridian, the Relay for Life "Survivor Lap" in which cancer survivors make the initial lap around Ray Stadium was the fourth one in which he participated.
Fighting cancer
James, who retired as chief executive officer and president of Great Southern National Bank last year, has been battling prostate cancer for four years.
Dee VanDevender, chairman of Relay for Life's Survivors Committee, said about 300 cancer survivors turned out for the "Survivor Lap."
Organizers of the event expect to hit their fund-raising goal of $400,000, the same amount the Relay for Life campaign raised last year.
The "Survivor Lap" started at 7:15 p.m., led by the five honorary chairmen of this year's event: Police Officer Katherine Austin, Fire Capt. Anthony Germany, registered nurse Janie Gordon, teacher Camie Heard and National Guardsman Bill Larson.
The honorary chairmen were selected as examples of those in the community who protect and serve, heroes that illustrate the fund-raiser's theme of "United We Stand, Together We Walk."

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