Tuesday local cancer survivors were honored during a Survivor's Dinner at First United Methodist Church.
The American Cancer Society set a goal for the Survivor Committee of having 175 registered cancer survivors for this year's Relay for Life Event. That goal was met and exceeded with 188 registered survivors.
The dinner was to celebrate the lives of the survivors and the fight they won with cancer.
“The event was truly a celebratory occasion,” said Survivor Committee chair Jane Barnard. “Survivors from all walks of life and in all stages of current treatment and up to 50 years of being a survivor were present.”
Peacemakers, one of the Relay for Life teams, provided funds to sponsor the event.
The dinner included Relay for Life games. Each guest was given an opportunity to guess the number of purple and white (Relay for Life Colors) M&M's in a decorative glass jar. Barnard said “great debate ensued among guests” as each one was convinced he or she had guessed the closest number.
“From about 200 entries ranging with guesses of the number of M&M’s from 100 to over 3,000, Vickie Layfield's guess of 901, which was only 12 M&M's away from the actual number of 913 was the winner,” she said.
Layfield almost missed her chance to be the event entirely. According to Barnard, Layfield had just found out about the Survivor Dinner the day before and expressed her wishes as a survivor to participate.
“The Survivor Committee seeks to be as inclusive as possible, and we encourage those in our community who are survivors to look for information about Relay for Life survivor activities beginning next January,” Barnard said.
Door prizes were provided by: Georgia Bob's, Jan Nutt, Fowler/Flemister Concrete, Charmed, 42nd Floor, Curves, Express Car Wash, Protective Cleaners, Down South Seafood, Pickle Barrel, and the American Cancer Society.
A special part of the evening was the recognition of Josh Thompson, a 16-year-old student at Baldwin County High School, who was this year's Relay for Life honorary chair. Thompson was diagnosed at age 14 with testicular cancer and has been through multiple surgeries and chemo and treatments.
“His advice to other survivors was to keep a sense of humor,” said Barnard.
He was presented with a Japanese maple tree donated by T-Bones Nursery in recognition of his survivor's journey.
Barnard said several older and infirm survivors came to her after the dinner and expressed their gratitude for making them feel special.
“They said that we made them feel so special and loved and that's exactly what the Survivor Committee's intentions were.”
Also during the program, speakers from the committee and Relay for Life volunteers shared their experiences in dealing with cancer. Barnard, who is a cancer survivor, Jim Haskins, a caregiver, and Pam Tindal, who lost her mother to cancer, all shared their experiences with the guests.
“There was laughter, teasing, empathy, tears, but most importantly what we all shared hope and thankfulness for life,” she said.
Barnard added that she is still "filled up" with the joy of meeting other fellow cancer survivors and sharing a good meal.
“I am full of appreciation for so many in our community who help Relay for Life celebrate, remember, honor, and fight back.”
Relay for Life is slated for today at the Baldwin Braves Stadium. Activities will begin at 6 p.m. with an Easter Egg hunt starting at 6:30 p.m.
The opening ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. starting with the survivor lap. Area cancer survivors and members of each relay team will take turns walking around the track at the stadium.