02/04/11 — This year, join the Relay for Life: You can make a difference in the battle against cancer

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This year, join the Relay for Life: You can make a difference in the battle against cancer

Perhaps you have never thought before that you have the time to create a Relay for Life team.

Maybe you think that raising money to continue cancer research is too much work, too stressful and too much to expect from a mom or dad trying to juggle work, family, church and a life.

If you do, you probably haven't heard about Layla.

Layla Williford is a pioneer at just a little more than 2 years old. Her battle with brain cancer has taken her through surgeries, experimental treatments and new drugs.

She has weathered all those storms and still, despite her much-embattled first years, comforts her parents, Jenifer and Weldon, with her sunshine smile and her courage.

Layla has not quit -- and neither should the thousands of Wayne County residents who will gather at Wayne Community College this year to raise money for cancer research.

And this year's children's honorary co-chair is not alone in her bravery.

The adult honorary co-chairs, Linda Gurganus and Kem Lancaster, have stories equally as soul-stirring -- of courage, faith, determination and a feeling that perhaps, through their own struggles, they could save someone else.

And that really is what Relay for Life is all about.

There will be the same criticisms this year -- that the money does not stay here, that there are limited services for local cancer patients here in Wayne County, etc., etc.

And while there are reasons to consider ways to bring more money to local patients, there is still an overwhelming reason to continue to support an effort that funds lifesaving research.

That's how Layla got one of the drugs that very likely could help prolong her precious life -- and why cancer is not the death sentence it was just 30 or 40 years ago. It is also why there are so many people who can claim they are multi-year and multi-battle cancer survivors.

You do not know which dollar is going to be the one that funds the research that finds the cure -- or the next miracle drug. You do not know which year is going to be the magic year that puts an end to the need for Relays for Life.

But what you do know is that Relay for Life is America's stand against a disease that has affected people's lives for generations and stolen so many wonderful people from Wayne County over the years.

So make this the year you get together as a business, a church, a family and start your own Relay team. Raise money, have fun and join in the fellowship and warmth that make each year's event such an experience.

Be proud that your community has become an example of what a Relay should be and that more than half a million dollars was raised last year right here in Wayne County.

Cheer when that "mega event" banner is unfurled this year. But never, ever forget that Wayne County's Relay is not about glory, awards or booths.

It is about Layla and the thousands of children and adults like her.

It is about giving them a chance.

And if that little girl and her family can continue moving forward with smiles, faith and hope, it is the least we can do to make sure they know just how much their community is behind them.

Even if it means a little fundraising and perhaps spending a night at a campsite.

To register a Relay team, call (252) 414-7152 or e-mail christine.yancey@cancer.org

Published in Editorials on February 4, 2011 10:37 AM