Thousands turn out for annual Relay for Life event

By By Jordan Gribble / Special to the American Press

About 3,000 people joined together at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Friday and Saturday for the area’s 20th annual Relay

for Life to raise money to cure cancer.

Ariel Caraway, American Cancer Society community representative, said the event was on track to raise $221,000 — $150,000

of which had been raised by local groups and businesses before the relay even began.

“It’s been a long day for everyone out here. Considering many of the people here were at work all day and are now doing this,

a lot of us are pulling a 24-hour shift,” she said Friday.

“Everyone out here is just having a good time, and once we start we’ll walk around the track for the rest of the night.”

The event began in earnest at 7 p.m. Friday with opening ceremonies followed by a survivor lap and a Luminaria ceremony, during

which candles were lit to honor those who died of cancer.

Raquel Lyles, daughter of Lester Gaspard, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2011, said she was happy to be able to support

her father during his first year as a cancer survivor at the event.

“We just tried to stay positive throughout the whole experience and not think about the ‘what ifs,’ ” Lyles said. “We just

took things one day at a time, and we’re happy to be here now to support him and to see everyone else out here supporting

their loved ones.”

Sallye Lebleu, who just celebrated 37 years as a survivor of uterine cancer, said she volunteers with the ACS to share her

story with those who have cancer.

“It took a long time for me to get over it, and cancer treatment was much different back then, it was rough. It’s still really

hard, but nowadays when they know what kind of cancer you have, they know how to treat it,” she said.

“Back then they just had to blast you with whatever because that’s the best they could do.”

Wilda Cook said she has attended Relay for Life every year that she’s been in remission — 13 — and hopes that she’ll be able

to survive breast cancer the same way her mother did.

“My mother survived breast cancer for 65 years, and died at the age of 112,” Cook said.

“She was the oldest cancer survivor in a group we were both in called Sister Survivor. Since my cancer I’m doing fine, I get

checked every six months, but I’m hoping to last as long as my mother did.”