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Campaign for a cure

By María Camp / For the FCT

The annual Franklin County Relay for Life, an event to celebrate local cancer survivors, caregivers and fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society, took place May 4 at the Russellville High School stadium. This year’s theme was the survivor and caregiver experience.

Anna Duncan, community development manager for the American Cancer Society, said this year’s fundraising goal was $95,000. Funds are raised from September through August. The current fundraising total is $75,000.

“We’d like to encourage our local community to help meet this goal,” Duncan said.

Donations can be made at CB&S bank downtown or Community Spirit Bank, both the Russellville and Red Bay branches, as well as online at

At Friday night’s event, survivors and caregivers walked a lap around the track in a show of hope and solidarity. Each group was recognized during the event, both for fighting cancer in their own ways.

After that lap, Milford Brown, 74, a colon cancer survivor, and his wife, Amy, invited anyone who was inclined and able to walk another lap with them in memory of their 46-year-old daughter, Dana, who suddenly died two weeks ago, not related to cancer.

“Relay for Life has been special for me,” Brown said, “ever since I was diagnosed in 1998. I had surgery and 30 chemo treatments starting a month later.

“The money raised through this event will help with cancer research and, one day, there will be a cure for cancer. It might not be in my lifetime, but one day. It’s very meaningful to come here and walk with other survivors.”

Many other survivors shared Brown’s feelings for the special annual event.

Wanda Peppers, a 63-year-old cancer survivor from Phil Campbell, said she is thankful for every day. Her first Relay for Life was in 2012, after she was diagnosed in 2011. “I was fortunate to have a good support team to help me through my surgery, radiation and chemo,” Peppers said.

About three years from the date of her diagnosis, Peppers’ mother, age 90 at the time, was diagnosed with the same type of cancer; however, she survived it by two years.

Carol Landers, of Phil Campbell, is a 3.5-year survivor of cancer. She and her husband were diagnosed with colon cancer within four days of each other. Both are doing well now.

The evening was filled with fundraising, stories and entertainment. Red Bay High School’s FFA string band performed under the direction of Jared Massey. Massage therapist Shawn Partain, owner of Underwood Spa and Salon, was on hand to help alleviate aches and pains, in her first time attending Relay. “I have really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun,” Partain said. “I am honored that I was asked to come.”

To close the evening, the Luminaria Ceremony was held. Most of the stadium lights were turned off, and paper bags were lit with glow sticks, each to recognize a life – a survivor of cancer, a life taken by cancer or someone still fighting. The ceremony included a few minutes of silence for reflection.

Fundraising recognition is as follows.

  • Top fundraising team: St. Paul.
  • Top business team: Community Spirit Bank.
  • Top community team: Southside.
  • Top medical team: Russellville Hospital.
  • Top school team: Russellville HOSA.
  • Volunteers of the Year: CB&S Bank.
  • Spirit of Relay Team: Jimmy Flemming – Red Bay.

Karen Thompson, a 23-year cancer survivor from Russellville, said she would like to encourage people to be involved in Relay for Life. “Cancer affects all of us in one way, shape or form, and this is one way we can fight it,” Thompson said. Hoyt Wells, of Phil Campbell, a 17-year cancer survivor, added, “This event is a really good effort to raise funds for cancer research.”

Duncan thanked the event sponsors – Ambulance Billing Service, Lanny Norris, Community Spirit Bank, Sunshine Mills, Mar Jac Poultry and CB&S Bank and offered special thanks to Russellville City Schools, Scott Equipment, Lyft, Billy Boyd and Jamie Medley.

New members are currently being accepted to the Franklin County fundraising leadership team. For more information, contact Duncan at

Another way to help in the fight against cancer is to sign up to be a driver for the Road to Recovery program. “Road to Recovery is one of our programs of special focus locally. This helps provide free rides for cancer treatment,” Duncan said. “Our goal is 50 new drivers. You can sign up by calling 1-800-227-2345.”

Call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for cancer information – any time, day or night.


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