By Curt Yeomans
Susannah Deliz's heart was broken in 2002 when doctors said her firstborn child, Aime Nino, had leukemia. The news came two months before she turned 2-year-old.
Nino began receiving treatment for the cancer right away, and almost immediately, the leukemia went into remission. Nearly six years have passed and the cancer has not come back.
"It's something no parent wants to hear from a doctor," Deliz said. "It took a while for me to accept it as reality."
Aime is now a first-grader at Jackson Elementary School with two big ponytails of hair, one on each side of her head. On April 2, she enthusiastically ran in the lead of her school's mini Relay For Life, a fund-raiser for the school's Relay for Life team at Jonesboro High School. Jackson and Smith elementary schools held mini relays on the same day. The schools raised a combined $5,400 for cancer research.
Smith students collected $1,800, and Jackson pupils raised $3,600.
The mini relays were held two weeks before the Clayton County Relay for Life event. The county relay will take place on May 16, at Twelve Oaks Stadium, in Lovejoy.
"[Cancer] is something that hits home," said DeAnna Orr, the county Relay for Life co-coordinator and Smith Elementary's coordinator. "Everybody knows somebody who has had cancer."
Both schools made events out of their respective mini relays. Jonesboro High School BETA Club members organized field games for Jackson students. The elder students also painted the faces of the younger pupils.
"I want to get butterflies and stars painted on my face," said Nino, as the anticipation built until she couldn't wait any longer to get her face painted.
Meanwhile, Smith Elementary School Principal Cindy Brictson had to fulfill a promise she made to her students to kiss a cow if the pupils raised enough money selling Hersey Kisses to create a giant Kiss on one of the school's walls.
At first, she thought she'd only have to kiss the Chick-fil-A cow mascot, but then a real cow appeared, and Brictson reluctantly leaned forward to smooch the bovine.
"The kids raised so much money through that, we had more than enough foil to make the giant kiss," Orr said.
The goal for this year's Clayton County Relay for Life coordinators is to raise $120,000, and the teams have raised $46,000 so far. Orr said the bulk of the money raised for each year's relay is collected at the annual bank night, which will be held on May 12. Bank night is where a local bank comes in and collects any contributions the teams have to turn in.
"I fully expect us to easily reach our goal," Orr said.
Orr added the county relay is still facing the dilemma of having no corporate sponsors for this year's event. She said even the traditional sponsors for the annual relay have decided not to get involved this year. Orr didn't have an explanation, but she speculated that recent negative reports about Clayton County have driven away sponsors.
"It disappoints me a lot this year," Orr said. "The back of Henry County's Relay for Life T-shirt will be filled with the names of corporate sponsors, and the back of ours will only have the names of some people who gave in-kind contributions."
Anyone who wants to help sponsor this year's Clayton County Relay for Life, can contact Orr at (770) 960-5750.