Lee County Kicks Off Relay for Life 2023 Efforts

Valeri White, left, shows participants an example of a binder available to cancer patients. Funds raised through the event help the production of these binders. PHOTOS BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH / THE OBSERVER




With Relay for Life just four months away, Lee County volunteers kicked off planning for this year’s event with a “Souper Supper” meeting Jan. 23 at the Opelika Sportsplex.

The meeting aimed to educate participants on the cause and allow them to share ideas for this year’s relay.


“Relay For Life is about supporting those in our community fighting cancer and raising money for cancer research,” said Randy Causey, who co-chairs the event with his wife, Debra — both longtime volunteers.

The longstanding event, which serves as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, is hosted each year in thousands of communities around the world. Lee County’s 2023 Relay for Life is set for April 28 from 6 p.m. to midnight at Courthouse Square in downtown Opelika.

This year’s Relay for Life theme is “Moving Lee County Relay forward because every step brings Hope,” according to Randy.

“What we want to try to emphasize along with that theme is staying active and eating healthy,” Debra added.

Several tents will be set up at the event, each with a different activity to supplement the Cancer Walk. Some of those could include line dancing, games like cornhole or sports, face painting or other family-friendly activities.

“Everything we do is going to be catered to the kids, so I’m really trying to just listen to what the kids kind of like,” said Crystal Doyle-Thomas, a volunteer and team leader.

Debra Causey discusses this year’s Relay theme with attendees.

Staples like the Jail & Bail and Luminaria are also set to return. In Jail & Bail, participants can donate to put a “warrant” out to place a local celebrity behind bars for up to 30 minutes or so, but those behind bars can ask for donations to “bail them out” sooner. The Luminaria, on the other hand, uses paper bags filled with light to honor those who have battled cancer. Each bag can be dedicated to someone who has fought or is currently fighting cancer, or simply offer a message of hope and encouragement.

This year’s local fundraising goal is $100,000. According to Valeri White, the funds raised through Relay for Life will provide free informational binders to cancer patients covering everything from questions to ask your doctor, to the locations of local treatment centers, to which clinical trials are available and more. It also has space to keep all test results and bills organized.

“There are resources available, and because of what you do, things like this are able to happen at no cost,” she said at the meeting.

For the majority of volunteers, the fight against cancer is a cause near and dear to their hearts.

“Even if you’re not a survivor, you know somebody that it’s touched,” said Debra, a survivor of breast cancer. “… It’s very worthwhile.”

Doyle-Thomas said several of her relatives have had cancer, but it hit closer to home when she watched her father go through it.

“It’s kind of hit different when it’s your immediate family, like my dad … and so I’m just passionate about it,” she said.

This is Doyle-Thomas’s fourth year as a team leader. Her pastor introduced her to Relay for Life a few years ago, and as she has heard the stories of other friends and acquaintances — including fellow participant Yolanda Fears — Doyle-Thomas said she has been inspired to help in any way she can.

“I’m a server,” she said. “It gave me an opportunity to really just use my service to help others, so that’s how I wanted to do it. So, if I can do anything as far as, like, raising money, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to use my voice to do whatever God has me to do.”

Carol Cram and her husband Rick, residents of Columbus, Georgia, have their own personal connections to cancer as survivors. Rick was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2014, and Carol had breast cancer surgery in 2018. She continues to battle metastatic breast cancer today.

Carol said she chose to participate in Lee County’s Relay for Life because of her friendship with Debra.

“I’m just happy to be here, so we do what we can to help whoever,” she said. “We’ll be there when they have the Relay doing our little walk in it. I mean, both of us being survivors, we just feel like giving back.”

For more information, or to donate to the local Relay for Life, visit www.secure.acsevents.org/site/STR?pg=entry&fr_id=104374.


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