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Clayton kicks off Relay for Life Campaign

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Riverdale resident and breast cancer survivor, Helena D. Gibbs, reviews information about this year's Relay for Life of Clayton County, during a kick-off event held at the Higher Living Christian Church's Community Impact Center, Inc., in Jonesboro on Thursday.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Riverdale resident and breast cancer survivor, Helena D. Gibbs, reviews information about this year's Relay for Life of Clayton County, during a kick-off event held at the Higher Living Christian Church's Community Impact Center, Inc., in Jonesboro on Thursday.

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Riverdale resident, Helena D. Gibbs, says she was born twice.

She celebrates the day of her physical birth in August, but she also celebrates what she considers her second birthday every year on Oct. 4 -- the anniversary of the day her doctor told her she had breast cancer.

It has been more than five years since the woman, now nicknamed "Sunshine Butterfly" -- because of her optimistic attitude -- was given her diagnosis.

She wears a pink scarf, a pink hat, a pink lapel pin, a pink wristband, and a breast cancer awareness charm bracelet. She still goes to radiation-treatment sessions once a year, but the 64-year-old has no plans of settling into an inactive lifestyle, anytime soon.

"I'm just so happy to be alive," she said. "Every morning, I wake up and do stretches, I work out and I just make sure I get my daily exercise."

Gibbs is planning to participate in this year's Relay for Life of Clayton County, where the theme will focus on helping cancer survivors live to celebrate more birthdays. The relay will be held on May 14, at 7 p.m., at Southern Crescent Stadium, which is located at 6237 Garden Walk Boulevard.

Local team captains kicked off the build-up to this year's relay with a birthday-themed information meeting on Thursday night, at Higher Living Christian Church's Community Impact Center, Inc., in Jonesboro. Relay for Life is a worldwide program organized by the American Cancer Society.

"The purpose of Relay for Life is to celebrate survivors, and remember those who we've lost to cancer, and to fight back by raising money for programs offered by the American Cancer Society, and for research to help find a cure," said Relay for Life of Clayton County Chairperson Cheryl Fincher.

Fincher said the goal for this year's event is to raise $95,000, and have 40 teams, 455 participants, and 120 survivors at this year's relay. For last year's relay, 43 local teams raised $91,000, with 405 participants, and 61 survivors at the event, she said.

As of Friday night, there were nine teams signed up, according to the relay's web site, www.relayforlife.org/claytonga/. Local teams had also already raised $90 for the Clayton County relay, according to the event's web site.

DeAnna Orr, the team captain for Smith Elementary School, said the relay, itself, can be somewhat of an overnight tailgate party, with games and cooking on grills going on throughout the night, until the sun comes up on the following morning. One of the rules for all Relay for Life events around the globe, is that someone from each team has to be walking on the track at all times, she said.

"They always have activities going on throughout the night," Orr said. "It's mainly just to wake people up."

Orr said her mother is a survivor of uterine cancer, but she lost her grandfather to lung cancer, so she thinks of them when she participates in the Relay for Life each year. Her ultimate dream is to see the eradication of cancer all together, so more people can live to see more birthdays.

Gibbs, for one, said she plans to live long enough to celebrate several more birthdays. "I'm going to live to be 107, wearing high heels and a big smile," she said.

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On the Net:

Relay for Life of Clayton County:

www.relayforlife.org