Embodying the ‘Spirit of Relay’

Published 6:31 pm Friday, April 8, 2016

Each year, the Relay For Life organization brings communities together to remember those we’ve lost, celebrate our survivors and champion those facing a cancer diagnoses. Robyn Cobb and her staff at SouthernCare Hospice are committed advocates of this cause and have the spirit to prove it! Since 2012, SouthernCare has taken home the Spirit of Relay award every year for their efforts in involving the community in the fight against cancer. Cobb and Brandi Lawrence joined The Clanton Advertiser for a question-and-answer session about their efforts.

The Clanton Advertiser: What inspired or motivated you to get involved with the Relay For Life organization?

Robyn Cobb: My dad died 13 years ago from head and neck cancer, which is what triggered me into participating. I also got involved because everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or another.

Brandi Lawrence: My dad passed away from lung cancer. I now serve on the Relay committee for the whole county, and my daughter Dori raises money for the annual Survivors Breakfast. We are especially passionate about this event because we want people to know that cancer doesn’t take everybody.

Ready to Relay: The SouthernCare Relay For Life team includes Lauren Jordan, Karen Smitherman, Cassie Patterson, Lisa Nicholas, Robyn Cobb, Brandi Lawrence. (Photo by Chanel Bingham)

Ready to Relay: The SouthernCare Relay For Life team includes Lauren Jordan, Karen Smitherman, Cassie Patterson, Lisa Nicholas, Robyn Cobb, Brandi Lawrence. (Photo by Chanel Bingham)

CA: Who is part of your team?

RC: Our entire staff. In office, we run about 23-24.

CA: What are some of the fundraisers you have done over the years?

RC: We have sold spaghetti plates and camp stew, but this year we are doing a grocery giveaway. We sold tickets for $5 beginning March 1. Tickets can be purchased from any SouthernCare staff member or at our office in town. We will also be periodically selling tickets in front of Walmart. On April 7, the drawing was held, and the winner had 5 minutes to race through Walmart and fill their buggy with food items.

CA: How has being a part of Relay For Life changed you?

RC: I see how cancer affects everybody from the youngest to the oldest. I am always inspired by the fight that comes out in each individual. You see that and it ignites everybody around you to fight. And that’s what we are here to do.

BL: It has changed me in many ways. It has taught me to give back and to give back more. I am personally blessed with a healthy body and my child is healthy, but through this, I have seen people who are not. That makes me want to be a part of the day when we find a cure for cancer. It feels good being a part of something that is changing lives and working to leave a legacy.

CA: In your line of work, I’m sure you see many patients touched by cancer. What impact has RFL and the American Cancer Society had on those patients?

RC: The American Cancer Society is there as a resource and support for every cancer patient.

BL: They offer the “Look Good Feel Better” program, which teaches women fighting cancer how to put on makeup and help them feel better about themselves. They also partner with Pantene for their “Beautiful Lengths” program and provide free wigs made of real human hair. The Hope Lodge, which is funded by RFL, is another free resource and provides lodging for the cancer patient and one caregiver who live outside of a 50-mile radius of Birmingham. They also provide free transport to and from doctor’s appointments.

CA: Why do you feel Relay For Life is important?

RC: We are inundated with cancer. In a county of over 40,000, it is truly amazing the number of people that are diagnosed with cancer each month, each week and each day. We see younger and younger individuals, even in their twenties and thirties, and it is heartbreaking.

CA: There are still some people in Chilton County who are not familiar with RFL. What would you tell those people?

RC: Just come to the event and walk around and listen to the stories. This is one day out of the year where we lay everything aside and come together to have fun and try to bring awareness. It’s not all gloom and doom. It’s people having a good time and showing their love and support for each other.

BL: It may seem a bit overwhelming to someone who has never been because there are individual campsites, but each team welcomes you. There are a lot of fun activities throughout the day that you can get involved with. Even if you are not part of a team, everyone is welcomed.

CA: What is your favorite part of Relay For Life?

RC: The luminaria ceremony because it really puts things into perspective.

BL: The survivor lap. A lot of people see cancer and death as the same thing, but to see the survivors walk around with a smile on their face and sharing their stories gives hope.

CA: I’m told the luminaria ceremony is such a powerful part of relay. Who will you have a luminaria bag for this year?

RC: I’ll have a bag for my father in remembrance of his life. He was always a strong supporter of me.

BL: In honor of my nephew, Ryan. My daughter Dori decorates the bag, and she takes pride in that. As you walk around and see the bags, it’s a very somber moment. At the same time, it gives us a glimpse into the life of that person. The bags may say special things about them or be decorated with their picture, and you get to know that person a little better.

–Chanel Bingham