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Relay celebrates another year of survivors, caregivers Thursday

By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
Testimony to a worthy event, local cancer survivors and caregivers started arriving at Hempstead Hall nearly a half-hour before the doors opened for the annual Relay for Life Survivor’s Banquet. By evening’s end, an estimated crowd of over 125 had come to “Celebrate another year of birthdays.”
There were dozens of purple and white adorned cupcakes given out as mini birthday cakes, representing the dozens of cancer survivors present, and at the end of the affair, there was the traditional singing of “Happy Birthday.”
The 2019 coming of the Relay’s annual Survivor’s celebration proved to be a unique social affair as some what of reunion with many familiar faces seen among gathering. Many cancer survivors reunited with friends and fellow survivors, some now four years and running.
Alexandrea Burton, who had chaired the Survivor’s banquet over the past four years for the Hempstead County Relay for Life, said “Many of our survivors don’t work, so this is something they look forward to and get excited about every year.”
Burton said one of her goals for the event every year is to expand the scope of both survivors and their caregivers. She said she has made extra efforts in recent years to reach out to persons, not known as regular attendees or participants at the Relay banquet.
In consecutive years of 2016, 2017, and 2018 increased banquet turnouts have occurred, which indicates her efforts have paid off.
Thursday night several constants of the event remained. There was the dinner itself with another food line mixed with Tyson chicken, sandwiches, and fruits and vegetables to seasonal lemonade, water, and traditional iced tea.
Volunteers from Pafford EMS were again on hand as the food line servers.
Burton said, “They do a great job for us there every year.”
Entertainment on the piano was provided by Hope’s Bitsy Carter; she both played and gave a couple of vocal performances.
As an annual event on its own, Burton said the banquet’s date relative to the main Relay itself wasn’t a factor.
“We’ve had it right before the Relay; we’ve had it weeks before the Relay; it really hasn’t mattered. Our survivors always look forward to this event; they may or may not be at the Relay, but they always enjoy this event. They like the door prizes, the gift bags, the dinner, the setting,” she said. Burton did add that survivor gifts that were not picked up at banquet could be picked up at the main Relay in two weeks.
With the Survivor’s banquet happening Thursday, the main Relay of Life ceremonies and events happen on April 26, two weeks from now, this year.
Other upcoming dates for the 2019 Relay for Life include:
• April 26 (Friday) for Relay of Life event and ceremonies at Legion Field at Hope’s Fair Park
• May 4 (Saturday) for Relay Co-Ed Softball tournament at Kelly Fields starting at 9 a.m. Registration for teams for tournament sponsored is still open. The team registration deadline is April 19, and there is a $200 registration fee.

Often referred to as a big “Birthday Party,” the Survivors banquet had plenty of purple and white cupcakes for everyone. (Rick Kennedy photo)
Another big turnout at the Survivors banquet was evident as the food lines were called. (Rick Kennedy photo)
The Hempstead County Relay for Life holds the Survivors banquet annually at Hempstead Hall. (Rick Kennedy photo)
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