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Relay For Life takes stand against cancer

Chilton County’s Relay For Life 2018 reeled in a turnout of over 2,000 guests and participants, dubbing this year’s event a success for the community’s strive to strike out cancer.

It was a meaningful experience for many county residents.

Cancer, one guest said, affects everyone.

Nobody fights alone.

“It affects everybody in some way,” she said. “Everybody knows somebody that’s been affected by it, so this is a good way… to support and show their love for everyone.”

The April 27 event was hosted for the first time in downtown Clanton at Corner Park, officially kicking off with the traditional Survivor Lap, featuring broad grins and trailing balloons held by purple-clad cancer victors.

After introducing themselves and their personal journeys, survivors released their balloons to the sky.

During opening ceremonies, Sheriff John Shearon led a prayer, Girl Scout Troop 337 presented the colors and pledge and emcee Terry Hinton performed the national anthem.

Community members enjoyed performances by various community groups, live musical entertainment by Holy Destiny and Hands of Praise and learned the story of cancer survivor and special speaker Chrissy Arnold Harrison.

Carnival food, retail vendors and activities, such as corn hole, inflatables and a dunking booth, fed the evening festivities.
Several guests shared what Relay For Life meant personally to them.

“It means a lot to me,” Jimmie Johnson said. “I had a grandbaby that had it. She’s 18 years old now — She’s healed. She’s been healed for a long time.”

Johnson said his granddaughter had leukemia.

“She could hardly walk,” he said.

While she had no personal connection to bouts of cancer, Brandi Minard said she came with her family to support the cause with the Chilton County High School cheerleaders, one of which was her daughter.

For others, Relay For Life meant celebration — celebrating a diligent, determined war against cancer and celebrating the lives that wage or have waged personal battles with the disease.

This was the case for Mary Martin, who lost her 13-year-old daughter Anni Baker Martin to cancer in 2008.

“The grace and just the lack of fear that these kids have is absolutely amazing to me,” Martin said. “And she (Anni) was that way. She was fierce. She went, ‘No, no, no! We’re fighting. We’re not giving up.’”

Martin said Anni planned her own memorial service.

“And it was beautiful,” Martin recalled.

Martin said Relay For Life means a lot to her.

“Obviously, we need the money for the research, but it’s also to celebrate her,” Martin said of her daughter. “It’s just another day that I get just to celebrate her.”

Jeannie Smith of the American Cancer Society said Relay For Life raised a little over $75,000. Relay For Life of Chilton County is hopeful to continue to raise enough to reach its $100,000 goal.

“I’m a firm believer in God put a cure for everything on this earth, and it’s right in front of us,” Martin said. “And we will find it one day.”