Relay Survivors banquet comes early as key dates are set

By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
The new leadership committee of Hempstead County’s Relay of Life held an organizational meeting on Thursday night, and one of the highlights was the earlier than normal date set for the annual Relay for Life Survivors banquet, which will be Thursday, April 11 this year, several days ahead of the main Relay on Saturday, April 26.
“The Survivors banquet is a bit earlier this year; it is usually a bit closer to the Relay. We need to get the word out,” new Hempstead Relay Chair Janet K. Choate said.
The Survivors banquet, is held annually at Hempstead Hall. Over the years, the banquet has attracted between 80 and 150 cancer survivors and caregivers, and it has grown in attendance every year.
In the past, former longtime Relay for Life Chair Jessie Lewis often referred to the event as a “birthday party.”
“It is all about people being able to have more birthdays,” she said.
Traditionally, the Survivors banquet has featured survivors sharing their experiences with cancer and their treatments. In the past, there have also been guest speakers, like Life Coach Greg Gilbert, and survivors have received a goodie-bag with an RFL t-shirt. The event has also hosted Bingo games and awarded prizes that were donated.
The Survivors banquet is not the only Relay event seeing a different time this year as the annual Relay Softball Tournament, sponsored by Heather Manor, will be held Saturday, May 4, a week after the main Relay.
“Open dates have been hard to find; there is a lot going on this year,” Choate said of the later softball tournament date.
Several other key dates for Relay events were announced by Choate on Thursday night including:
• March 30 for Miss Relay for Life Pageant at Klipsch Auditorium (starting at 2 p.m.)
• March 15 for Relay Bake Sale at New Millennium
• April 12 for Relay Golf Tournament at the Country Club
• April 26 for main Relay of Life event and ceremonies at Legion Field at Hope’s Fair Park
• May 5 for Relay Softball Tournament
Choate also confirmed the relocation of the Relay for Life main event from Fair Park into the adjacent Legion Field this year.
“We wanted to bring everyone together; the prior setup was very spread out, and we had people walk far around the track. This new arrangement brings everyone closer, and makes the walk more manageable,” she said.
Choate added that the traditional luminaries would remain at the Fair Park Coliseum, and in case of rain or inclement weather, the Relay itself could be held there.
Also announced were two additional Relay organizational meetings on March 14 at Tailgaters (also at 5:30) and on April 4.
Also present at Thursday’s meeting was, Dave Phillips, the Relay’s Vice Chair for 2019, serving with Choate.
Kayce Wright, a Benton-based regional coordinator for the American Cancer Society in Arkansas, was also in town for Thursday’s meeting. Wright noted that the Hempstead Relay for Life has continued to do well.
“The Hempstead Relay for Life remains one of our strongest organizations in southern Arkansas; everyone does a great job here,” she said.

Two years ago as Miss Southwest, Suzie Gresham, along with her Pafford team, helped at the food line at the Relay for Life Survivors banquet. This year, the Survivors banquet happens April 11. Today, Gresham remains active on the 2019 Relay for Life committee. (Rick Kennedy photo)

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