Relay offers time for remembrance
As the sun set Monday evening, Jerry and Jan Vaughn took a slow stroll around the track at the De Soto district stadium.
Among a sprawling ring of glowing luminarias -- enough to encircle the entire track -- the couple looked for one they donated in honor of a niece who beat cancer and Jan's grandmother, who died from it.
The Vaughns, who moved to De Soto a year ago, attended their first Relay For Life this week. After the originally scheduled event was rained out June 3, planners set up what they called a "mini relay" for Monday afternoon and evening leading up to the city's Fourth of July fireworks show.
Jerry Vaughn, who is pastor of De Soto United Methodist Church, said he thought the event brought the town together for an important purpose.
His wife agreed.
"I think it's a chance to congratulate in honor of the survivors and remember those who lost the fight," she said.
Monday's Relay rain check was sparsely attended, as expected.
But De Soto Relay For Life event chairwoman Rita Jones said the two biggest highlights, the survivors' lap and the luminaria ceremony, were just as meaningful.
Ten cancer survivors, sporting standout dark purple T-shirts began their survivors' lap just after 7 p.m.
At Jones' urging, others walked behind them to show support.
Sally Bedford, however, stayed at the starting line with her 8-year-old grandson Jesse Bedford. She wanted to be ready to take pictures when her husband, Archie Bedford, and their daughter, Danita Bedford, finished the loop.
Danita survived a brain tumor that was detected 18 years ago.
Her mother said that was a trying time for the family but that she counted her blessings.
"It's very, very frightening," Bedford said. "But she had very good care. ... She came through it, and that was the important part."
Bedford said she also felt fortunate that her husband's cancer didn't become worse than it was. He survived a bout with throat cancer that was found five years ago, and none too soon.
"They caught it very early," Bedford said, noting that Archie's cancer was located in the false vocal chords, where cancer often goes undetected. "We were very fortunate."
"Instead of just dismissing it as allergies or a scratchy throat, they followed through with it."
Later Monday evening, during the luminaria ceremony, volunteers lit candles inside all the luminarias -- sand-filled paper bags decorated in honor of survivors or in memory of those who died from cancer. Once all were lit, Jones read each name over the loudspeaker.
"The luminarias just hold a special significance for lots of people," Jones said.
A fraction of the Relay's original teams participated Monday, but those that did stayed out at the track all day, Jones said.
Some residents, like the Vaughns, came out for part of the event, and many others who came to watch fireworks arrived early and spent time pacing the track to peruse the luminaries.
Jones said that was the biggest benefit of the rain date. By planning the luminaria ceremony for dusk, many people arriving at the track to watch De Soto's fireworks display would also be present, even if they wouldn't otherwise have showed up to Relay For Life.
Although this year's event fell short of its fund-raising goal, netting about $28,500 of a targeted $36,000, Jones said the total still wasn't bad for an event that was rained out.
Jones said additional contributions sent to the American Cancer Society by August would still count toward this year's De Soto Relay For Life goal. Donations may be sent to Relay For Life, P.O. Box 161, De Soto 66018.