Relay kicks off Friday in Wrens
By Carol McLeod
This Friday, the walking track at the Wrens Middle School will once again be the site of the annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Jefferson County with more than 300 people expected to take part.
A preliminary survivors’ reception is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday in a tent at the site, according to Lisa Bryant, Community Manager for the American Cancer Society. More than 100 cancer survivors are expected to attend this reception. Those cancer survivors attending will take the first lap around the track to mark the start of the Relay for Life, she said.
This year’s theme is “Rockin’ for a Cure,” according to Chris Dube, the event’s chairman.
Dube said the school’s walking track is where the Relay has been held since the county began participating in the event. This is the 13th year.
“We have a great entertainment schedule this year with various praise bands and different offerings,” he said. “And then, as always, we’ll have a Survivors’ Lap this year, which is a powerful event, we have to honor our survivors. Our luminary service will begin at 9 p.m., which is a time to remember those we’ve lost and to reflect on our loved ones’ experience with cancer.”
Dube said this year’s goal is $100,000.
“We’re closing in on that goal,” he said. “We’re making progress on that goal and we hope everybody will be able to join us out on the field and celebrate our survivors and experience the Relay.”
Two years ago, the American Cancer Society started accepting online donations. The URL for the Jefferson County teams is http://events.cancer.org/rfljeffersonco. Anyone wishing to make an online donation may do so by visiting that site.
Vicky McDonald, co-chair this year, said all contributions made through July will count towards this year’s event. Beginning in August, donations will count towards the 2009 Relay.
McDonald said there are 13 or 14 campsites and about 12 registered teams.
“We’re going to have different foods, hamburgers, hot dogs and fish. I’m sure there’ll be a variety of stuff,” she said.
A popular event is the baby stroller parade, which begins this year at 7 p.m.
“The teams provide their own baby stroller, sometimes they use a wagon,” McDonald said. “They put a baby in the stroller and decorate it. They’re very creative. One year, one team had an adult male in one (stroller). It was just hilarious. They push the strollers around the walking track. They go up to people and ask for donations. Whoever gets the most money wins the baby stroller parade.”
McDonald said she thinks participants enjoy that event.
“I think they have a lot of fun,” she said, adding the parade is one event that has been in the Relay every year.
“We’re also going to have a scavenger hunt. We have done it in the past, but not every year,” she said. “We did have one last year. This one’s going to be at midnight. Participants register, the PAC team is hosting it. You register with the PAC team, you have to be a member of a team or register through a team to participate. You register at the event. It’s a lot of fun. We’re hoping this will kind of wake and shake everybody up at midnight. We’re trying to have events that will keep people entertained through the night.”
McDonald said there will be a great line of entertainment.
“I think we have a super line. Dale and Vickie Gingery are the entertainment chairs. This is their first year doing it for us and they’re just doing a great job,” she said.
“I’m real excited about the event this year and I hope people will come out and have a lot of fun with this. This event is very dear to me. My mother passed away in 1991 from cancer. I feel like I’m giving back to my community.”
There will be brochures at the Relay that list the schedule of events, the names of all survivors known to the event staff and the teams. Brochures will be at the Survivors Tent and other places throughout the site.
“I’d like everyone who wants one to have one,” McDonald said. There’s no cost for the brochures.
Luminaries will be for sale at the Survivors Tent for $5.
McDonald said she keeps in mind that the Relay represents hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer every day will be supported and that one day cancer will be eliminated.
“This is why I relay,” she said. McDonald said some mottos she has seen that keep her motivated include, “Cancer never sleeps” and “There’s not a cure until we have a finish line.”
The Wrens Community Church Praise Band is scheduled to play from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. with a break from 7 p.m. until 7:15 p.m. during the Baby Stroller Parade. Walk By Faith performs from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Tailgate Band will perform from 8:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. with a break from 9 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. during which time the lighting of the Luminaries with a prayer and a song by Dale Gingery will take place. From 10 p.m. until 11 p.m. the Air Band will perform.
Closing ceremonies are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday when top fund-raising teams will be awarded prizes. More than 16 teams took part in last year’s Relay for Life, raising $121,000, according to the press release from Bryant.
“Team volunteers have been conducting a variety of fund-raising projects throughout much of the year to help swell the income for the Society’s programs of research, prevention, detection, advocacy and patient services,” the press release stated. “People not on teams can come to the event to walk and make donations.”
For more information, call (706) 547-4090.
His turn on the track
By Faye Ellison
Feeling healthy in life, it is sometimes hard to believe that there is any disease that would ever hold you down.
But not one to leave life and his health up to chance, former Wrens native Larry Avery insists on having an annual physical or being checked by a doctor regularly.
He believes his last physical, perhaps a miracle in disguise, saved his life. After a doctor found blood in his urine during his routine physical, he went to his regular doctor where he was given a CAT scan. The cancer was found in his bladder.
After years of taking care of his family and supporting others in the community in their fights with the deadly disease, Larry had found himself in a position that seemed familiar, but yet unreal.
In the late summer of 2007, Larry learned the news of his impending battle.
Treatments and surgery
“I take a full physical every year,” Larry said. “I go to the doctor every year, at least once a year.”
Learning about the cancer, Larry looked back and realized that even though he felt physically fit, something was very wrong.
“I really didn’t feel anything wrong,” he said. “I didn’t have any pain before I went to the doctor. It is a silent killer. I heard that it really doesn’t hurt you until the last stages.”
The cancer found in Larry’s bladder was what the doctor called “fast acting.”
“He told me I would lose the battle if I didn’t have surgery soon,” he said. “I was devastated. I didn’t know whether I would come through any of the surgeries. Is this the last time I would see my family?”
Larry credits his wife, Alesia, for promoting a sense of staying healthy with him. He said since they have been married, she pushed him to stay on top of where his health is and made sure he always had an annual physical.
“You never think you will have some kind of sickness,” Larry said. “You never know what you have until you go to the doctor. My wife always makes sure that I go. If I didn’t have her, I don’t know where I would be today.”
Larry was not ready to leave his family and friends yet. He went in to have surgery to remove the cancer, but doctors were not able to get it all. Afterwards, he had chemotherapy from September to November 2007.
Recovering: Listening and learning
“They said it killed most of it, but not all of it,” Larry admitted.
His last surgery was on Feb. 11. It was successful in removing all of the cancer from Larry’s bladder. The surgery lasted for 10 hours.
“I didn’t know if I would make it, but God woke me up you know,” he said. “I am just thankful for that.”
He stayed in the hospital for eight days and with the good news on his April 15 doctor’s visit found that he would not have to take any more chemotherapy.
Larry found that his treatments made him weak.
“I went once a week for eight hours on a Tuesday, the next Tuesday I would be back for an hour,” he said. “The third week I didn’t have to take any. I worked at Huber for about half of that time. It pulled me down real bad and I was able to work with it for a while until it got my system real bad. It made me sick.”
Dedicated to God, his family and his work, Larry was back at his job at KaMin LLC, formerly Huber on April 7 taking about two months to heal from the surgery.
“After the surgery I haven’t hurt that much,” he said. “I have been doing great. God gave me another chance on life. I thank God for my doctor. I just thank God. I feel like I am back about 90 percent. I am still a little sore from the surgery and I don’t lift a whole lot, but I do pretty much what I want to do.”
During his time coping with his cancer and every day before and after his life changing event, Larry has found solace in his family and in the Lord.
“My family was very strong for me,” he said. “Everybody talked to me. They were real strong and I feel that way too. I think God wasn’t ready for me to come with him. They stuck by me to the end and they still do that today. I am the baby of the family and they stuck by me.”
During his fight, Larry said he knew he wasn’t ready to leave his life behind. He lost one brother to cancer and had two others who both suffered from prostate cancer. His brother, Walter Avery, died on Dec. 18, 2000, from bone cancer, while his brothers, James Avery and Robert Avery, both in their 60s, are doing fine after their treatments.
“It was hard losing my brother,” Larry remembered. “He suffered a lot. It hurt the whole family. He was like the backbone of our family. We looked up to him, he made sure we had family reunions and things like that. After he died I kind of took over and so far I have been doing pretty good with that.”
Larry has stayed behind his brother Harry to get regular check-ups with a doctor as well.
“I have been getting on to him to get a physical and he did it about two weeks ago,” Larry said. “If there is something wrong, by having a physical maybe they will catch it in time. Having a physical can prolong your life. For him everything came out real good.”
Since the 1990s, Larry had also been giving his hand to help fight cancer for others. Along with his wife and mother-in-law, Lula Mae Goodson, working with the Disciples for Life Relay for Life team has given him a first-hand look at what cancer does to the victims and their families.
Goodson was a founding member and died Oct. 8, 2000, leaving Alesia to take over as the captain of the team.
“Being a part of the team, I never thought I would go through this situation,” Larry said.
Since his battle, Larry has found that he speaks out more on the subject and sees more about what the Relay can do for those also battling cancer.
“I speak out to people to go to the doctor and be checked out,” he said. “Maybe we are giving someone else a second chance on life with the money we raise. If you wait a long period of time, you don’t have a good chance at recovery. We are kind of like machinery. If you don’t take care of your car, you will run it down.
“I would tell them to keep their head up and put everything in the Lord’s hands. Don’t wait until you get in this situation to talk to the Lord, talk to him every day. I don’t ever go to bed before I say my prayers. He blessed me and he brought me out. He brought me back.”
This year, Larry will look at the Relay from a different point of view, in the Survivors’ Lap.
“This is something new for me. I have always been there for the opening ceremony and watched everyone I know walk around the track, I watched them all pass by, now this year I will be one of the ones to tote the banner around the track. You know God really gave me another chance.”
County earns entrepreneur friendly designation
By Carol McCleod
Jefferson County was named an entrepreneur-friendly community by the Georgia Department of Economic Development last week.
In a meeting held Monday, April 21, at the county’s chamber office in Louisville, Adela Kelley, regional project manager of GDED, made the announcement and presented a banner to the chamber.
The groundwork to make this designation possible began in August of last year when Lil Easterlin, the chamber’s executive director, held an Entrepreneur Resource Forum in Louisville.
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There is a statewide initiative to recognize communities that are entrepreneur friendly, Easterlin said at the time.
“Entrepreneur-friendly is a designation to allow communities to encourage entrepreneurship to small business,” Easterlin said. “As a community, we become entrepreneur-friendly if we have these things in place. The designation is from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Small Business and Innovation Division.”
According to a press release Kelley handed out during the meeting, Jefferson County completed an Entrepreneur Friendly program to earn the designation.
“The county analyzed its entrepreneurial and small business environment and developed strategies to help foster the growth of this critical business segment,” the press release stated.
“Any time that I ever take any kind of training, I look around to see who is there from my district, I always see Lil (Easterlin) there,” Kelley said. “Sometimes, from our region there’s no one there but Lil.”
Kelley commended Easterlin on bringing the training, information back to people in Jefferson County.
Kelley said the team that evaluated the county for this designation had some key impressions.
“We found out a lot about your community that we didn’t know,” she said, adding, “Tom (Jordan) is wonderful. He is really, really good with his clients.”
Kelley said she was impressed with several stories local business owners told during the earlier meeting.
She said the steering committee that worked on getting the county approved as an entrepreneur friendly community was an excellent representation of small business.
She commended them on making presentations to area committees, boards and civic organizations. She recognized they used a variety of media sources to provide information to area businesses.
Easterlin put together what Kelley called “a great starter kit” for people in the community who want to open their own business. The kit is available at the chamber office.
Input Kelley received from local entrepreneurs indicated 67 percent are self established. She said a small portion of business owners, 8 percent, have e-commerce capability, something she said could increase sales by allowing people from all over the world to purchase products online.
One service the GDED could help with, Kelley said, is website optimization. This service, which Kelley provides at no cost, increases the ease with which a search engine can locate a particular website, increasing its traffic.
According to a press release from the GDED, Jefferson County is also eligible for an Entrepreneur-Friendly Implementation Fund grant to help implement specific, long-term programs that support the county’s entrepreneurs and small businesses. This grant must be matched 50 percent in dollars or in-kind value by the community.
“The chamber will be offering some courses on how to start a business,” Easterlin said. “Look for those to be promoted throughout the community or contact the chamber for more information.” The chamber hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The telephone number is 478-625-8134.