It was a day for survivors at Dallas County Relay For Life.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, 39 cancer survivors crowded together underneath a canopy tent shielded by the sun.
The annual event previously landed on a summer date, but was changed to fall in order to give survivors and caretakers the chance to participate in cool weather.
Instead, temperatures reached into the nineties.
Our numbers are down, but it was nice though that we got so many survivors – that is why we do it,” said Relay for Life Volunteer, Toshia Garnes. “It gives me a lot of pleasure to see them all out here, especially with how hot it is.”
Each year, an honorary speaker is selected to share their battle with cancer during the opening ceremony. Perry’s Superintendent Clark Wicks was chosen to speak at this year’s event.
“I thought that I would never have cancer,” said Wicks during his opening speech for the ceremony.
Wicks battled cancer from the months of May 2016 until Oct. 2016.
“I started to get cards on May 11,” Wicks said. “I got a card every single day until my last day was Oct. 11; it was just such a liberating and encouraging thing to know that people care about you and want you to get through this.”
Throughout his speech, Wicks addressed survivors and asked them to remember a quote he holds dearly: “Your value is determined by what you make of yourself.”
“Let’s all increase our value,” Wicks said. “Get as strong as we all can emotionally and physically, and try to help other friends and family.”
Outside of the tents, a sea of survivor purple shirts hugged one another, linking arms and walking together, first during the survivor’s lap, followed by the caretaker’s lap.
“It’s sad that cancer doesn’t have any respect for a person; it doesn’t matter whether you’re young, old, rich poor – cancer can strike anyone,” said Luella Carney, survivor.
Carney attends Relay for Life each year with her husband, Ed, and friend from church, Suzanne Hanson. All have survived the disease.
“This [Relay for Life] helps me,” said Hanson, breast cancer survivor. “It just makes me so thankful that i’m well, and I don’t want to take that for granted.”
After taking on southern half of Dallas County, the original Relay for Life goal was set to $30,000 dollars, all of which would go towards funding cancer research.
With over 10 teams registered, combined with sponsorships, outside donations, the luminaria event, catering for food, and the silent auction, the Saturday night event was able to raise and estimated $22,000 dollars.
Gary Iles, committee member for Relay for Life, said donations are still trickling in.
”Last year we were at about 25 and we got southern Dallas County as well,” Iles said. “It could still possibly be coming in.”
For those who took chatted with one another inside the shaded tents, or walked across the heated asphalt, the event is more than just giving back.
“Instead of a relay, it’s more of a celebration, it’s a ‘let’s get out here and celebrate the life that we have worked all year long for this day,” Garnes said.
Although numbers are down, the overall event was a success to Iles.
“I think everything went pretty well,” Iles said. “I think a lot of the people came out and enjoyed themselves even though it was warm out.”