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Cotulla set to host all-night cancer research fundraiser at stadium
After a seven-year hiatus, the nationally popular American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life community fundraiser returns to South Texas next month and is scheduled for Friday through Saturday, May 6-7, at Myers Memorial Stadium in Cotulla.
The overnight event involves teams of sponsored walkers on the stadium track while related fundraising activities and entertainment are offered on the premises. Participants include government and civic leaders, school and business representatives, family groups, student teams, youth organizations, and corporate sponsors.
The event, which was originally held in Pearsall and combined teams from Frio and La Salle counties, began in 2003 and was held until 2015.
Deborah Jarvis, a former event organizer for Pearsall, has returned to take the reins and bring the family-oriented event back to South Texas.
“This was always the best experience,” Jarvis said of the fundraisers held in Frio County. “I am now working and living in Cotulla, so I want to bring it back and help bring awareness to the community and to the neighboring towns.”
Jarvis describes herself as outgoing, with the ability and experience to spearhead community events, but she also has a personal connection to the Relay for Life.
“I have had several family members who have fought cancer, with some not making it,” she said. “I remember when I was nine I would be getting off the school bus and running across the yard to tell my dad about school. He looked at me and my brother and told us to go pack a suitcase; we were going to stay with our grandparents for the next six weeks because our mom had cancer.”
Jarvis said that day continues to haunt her, and she vividly remembers walking back to her house, crying, blaming herself and thinking that if she had only cleaned her room or helped with the dishes and laundry, maybe her mom would not have cancer.
“At nine, six weeks seems like eternity,” Jarvis said, “and my brother and I did not understand what was going on. We missed our mom and knew she was ill. She had surgery and a kidney was removed. Once she was home, we were only allowed to see her for 15 minutes a day.”
Cancer was not talked about.
“Now it is 2022 and my mom is doing great,” Jarvis said. “She still goes for regular check-ups.”
Cancer affects millions around the world each year. It does not discriminate based on age, color or gender.
“Almost everyone has known someone or knows someone who has had to face cancer up close,” Jarvis said. “Cancer research is going on all the time and new treatments are being developed, but on the local levels, people need help with getting to treatments, basic home care, buying a wig or special bra, or just having that emotional support system.”
Relay For Life is designed to help raise awareness of cancer’s effects and the impact it has on a family and household, and helps raise funds to help the affected and their supporters and caregivers with the everyday and extraordinary expenses that are associated with providing essential services, transportation, supplies and family assistance.
Jarvis noted that each year schools host a “Pink Out” during October for breast cancer awareness and, although she acknowledges its significance, she believes in promoting greater awareness for all cancer types. This, she said, is the purpose of the Relay for Life.
“As I walked in the Cotulla High School 5K, I knew I wanted to do more and make sure that people knew other types of cancer existed,” she said. “Each cancer has its own specific color but purple is the overall color for all cancers.”
The event begins at 7 p.m. in the high school stadium on Friday, May 6, and ends at 7 a.m. the next day. Currently, there are three teams registered on line, but five more teams have agreed to take part.
Jarvis encourages teams to sign up and choose what they will be selling the night of relay; this year’s theme is ‘Rock Out Cancer,’ which she describes as being loosely based on old-time rock-n-roll.
The night’s activities include a dinner for cancer survivors, the opening lap around the track for cancer survivors, a lap for cancer caregivers, and a variety of entertaining attractions such as a frozen t-shirt contest, a Mr. Relay contest, a scavenger hunt and a twisted ribbon display of cancer colors.
Event organizers are looking for additional entertainment; anyone interested should contact Jarvis, Deborah.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luminaria bags will be sold up until 9 p.m. the night of the Relay. The lighted candles in bags honor every life touched by cancer and are dedicated to individuals who have battled cancer and lost, those who won, as well as those who are currently fighting the disease. Luminarias can be purchased for $5 and are decorated with names, pictures, and messages to loved ones. Relay participants gather around the lighted bags at 10 p.m. and share in the emotional moment as each candle is lit. A moment of silence follows, and then all Relay participants walk a lap in complete silence.
“This is a very heartwarming and special time during the event,” Jarvis said.
Team registry remains open; all those interested in taking part in the all-night celebration, fundraiser and special dedication for the sake of cancer research and for those affected by cancer may join teams and should register well in advance in order to begin their sponsorship fundraising efforts.
Typical fundraising for the Relay for Life involves team members agreeing to take turns walking the stadium track throughout the night in exchange for contributions from friends, family, businesses and community members.
Relay for Life ends shortly after dawn on Saturday with a closing ceremony, well-wishes and messages of thanks. The symbolism of the new day beginning as the sun rises over the stadium is one of hope for a cure and relief for those who have been affected financially and emotionally by the disease, that help is on its way and that a community has come together in support.