Times Staff Writer
Although this will be the first time for one local mother and her 13-year-old daughter to participate in the Relay For Life, scheduled May 3-4 at the YMCA, the two have always had a soft spot for cancer victims and their families.
Kelsey Carter, daughter of Brenda and Steve Carter, recently suggested that her mother join her in the event. Mom quickly agreed with the Leukemia survivor.
Kelsey, a sixth-grader at North Clay Middle School, was diagnosed with the illness at age 3. In remission 28 days later, she underwent chemotherapy until she was almost 6.
"It was scary, I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone," said Brenda Carter. "We didn't know if we'd have her here long."
Now the energetic and outgoing teen is only reminded of the illness when she goes for an annual check-up at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. She is active on Students Against Drunk Driving and the student council at North Clay. A typical adolescent, she likes to dance and enjoys listening to popular singers like Britney Spears. She also spends a lot of time with her pet mule, Henry.
Kelsey wants to spread a message of hope to others.
By participating in the Relay For Life, "you can help people and their families who have cancer deal with it," she said.
Her mother thinks it's also a good idea for those without firsthand experience with the illness to get involved.
"I think people ought to be more aware of cancer," Carter said. "Sometimes it's hard to get people to notice with other fundraisers, like buying a candy bar." She thinks getting people actively involved is the key to the Relay's success.
Relay For Life is an overnight event designed to celebrate survivorship and raise money for research and cancer-awareness programs. Teams of people gather at schools, fairgrounds, or parks across the country and take turns walking or running laps during the annual relay. A tradition for over 15 years, the goal is to have one person on the track at all times.
Wabash Valley American Cancer Society community development director, Dawn Clinkenbeard, said the nationwide relay is the ACS's biggest fundraiser. Each participant pays a $10 registration fee, which goes to fund the ACS's many projects.
She is glad to see survivors like Kelsey take part.
"Kelsey's healthy and happy now, and that's kind of exciting," Clinkenbeard said.
Breakthroughs such as chemotherapy and identifying the link between cancer and tobacco came from the ACS's research. The organization has earned 32 Nobel Peace prizes from its research findings over the years.
"Some very important discoveries and research have been made possible with money from Relay For Life," Clinkenbeard said.
It's a celebration of survivorship, remembering those who died from cancer with the goal of raising money toward the fight against cancer. Last year, the counties of Vigo, Clay, Parke Vermillion, Sullivan and Putnam raised more than $400,000.
The 12-hour period for the relay has special significance.
"The sun rises and sets on the cancer patient's struggle," said Clinkenbeard. "This way, they have solidarity with one another."