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Relay For Life celebrates cancer survivors’ birthdays

By Mary Stewart | The Selma Times-Journal

The Carl C. Morgan Convention Center was filled with joy Monday night as cancer survivors and their caretakers, family and friends gathered to celebrate victory over cancer.

Bridget Mills, American Cancer Society senior community development manager, is over seven counties’ Relay for Life programs.

Mills said she gets her drive from seeing the survivors’ faces.

“It is seeing the faces of the cancer survivors who have celebrated those 36 years, and the cancer survivors who have only been with us one year,” Mills said. “[The one-year survivors] being able to look around and see hope when they hear that someone has been here 36 years. That’s what it’s about.”

Mills and her team were excited to welcome 90 survivors to the banquet Monday night.

Relay for Life of Selma-Dallas County set out to make their survivors feel like celebrities.

Some survivors were honored with awards, and all 90 of them walked down the “purple” carpet for their moment to shine.

The cancer survivors banquet is a longstanding event for Relay for Life. It not only celebrates the survivors but also gets teams ready for the upcoming Relay events.

“The American Cancer Society’s survivors banquet happens in over 5,000 communities around the world, and it really kicks us off leading up to our Relay For Life event,” Mills said.

The Relay for Life of Selma-Dallas County event will be held at Lions Fair Park on June 2.

Alvin Craig, the event lead for Relay For Life of Selma-Dallas County, has been involved for eight years and is more determined than ever to do his part.

“I am trying to get these cancer survivors to their next birthday,” Craig said,” I am trying to find a cure for cancer. I would like for cancer to be a thing of the past.”

Craig is a former team leader for the Vaughan Regional Medical Center team. He recently passed his position to Sharesha Sneed, who was happy to step up as a team leader.

“It means a lot to me,” Sneed said,” “It is very important that everyone makes it to their next birthday.”

She enjoyed her first year as a team leader and has high hopes that eventually Relay for Life can help put an end to cancer.

Wanda McCall, a cancer survivor, shared her story and what Relay for Life means to her. McCall was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and spent six weeks doing chemotherapy in Birmingham.

During her treatment, she stayed at the Hope Lodge, which is funded by Relay for Life. McCall was provided food, entertainment and transportation by the Hope Lodge, and she was kept company by many visitors from churches all over Alabama.

She also spoke of a program sponsored by Relay For Fife that provides women with wigs, wraps, and makeup.

Many survivors, like McCall, have now joined Relay teams so that they can give back to the program that gave so much to them.

“I never will forget what they did for me, and I know they are doing it for others too,” said McCall.