Relay 1, Rain 0: Weather can’t stop fund raising event

Lori Bolden – Q&A
April 29, 2015
Open house draws 1,000-plus
April 29, 2015
Lori Bolden – Q&A
April 29, 2015
Open house draws 1,000-plus
April 29, 2015

For the 20th year in a row Saturday businesses, individuals and organizations banded together in Terrebonne Parish for a single purpose, to join others throughout the world seeking to raise money for cancer research, and by so doing honor friends and relatives who have survived and in some cases fallen to the disease.

That’s why for many who gathered at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center for this year’s Relay for Life, held in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, the crusade is personal.

Melissa Pellegrin and her brother, Kirby Chaisson, said Relay for Life is a meaningful way for to honor their grandfather, Louis Chaisson Sr. who died on Christmas day 2006 and their grandmother, Clodilla Chaisson, a survivor of breast cancer. This is their 7th year of participation; they operated a booth selling hot-from-the fryer beignets.

“We look forward to this fundraiser every year,” Melissa said. “It’s really something to see an entire community so dedicated to one purpose.”

She and others at the event feared that a foul weather system that moved through the area would be an unpleasant damper.

But by 6 p.m. the sun was shining and a rainbow hovered over the Civic Center grounds, where tents of volunteers raised by local companies bore names relating to this year’s theme, “Vacationing.”

Shamrock Energy Solutions chose “Cruising For A Cure,” their booth featuring a “Bon Voyage” photo opportunity with dozens of different cruise props. Team leader Samantha Lyons explains

“All of our families are affected by cancer,” explained Shamrock team leader Samantha Lyons. “They have someone fighting the fight or someone that fought and passed. We are here to show support and love.”

For Kendra Clements, a mother of 5 who was diagnosed with cervical cancer, the Relay For Life provided a platform for celebration. On stage, her message was “Stay positive. Stay strong. Stay hopeful.”

For Greg Doiron it was a venue for memorial. He recited a poetic eulogy he had written for his late father.

At 7 p.m. survivors, wearing purple shirts, prepared to walk the traditional first lap of the relay together. As butterflies were released and the group moved forward, cheerleaders from Terrebonne and H. L. Bourgeois high school and Carol Bruno’s Cheernastics gym lined the route shouting support. Some called out “let’s go survivors, let’s go.”

Family and friends joined loved ones on the second lap as Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet, Councilman John Navy and others read aloud the names of survivors.

Children flipped and played in multiple bounce houses as the band Souther Cross played. Disney-character princesses socialized and Olaf from the movie Frozen posed for pictures and got lots of hugs. As the night wore on the air was heavy with aromas of food offerings that included jambalaya, crabmeat japaenos, bound spring rolls and fried pickles.

A well-attended auction saw a kid-sized airboat fetch $1,000, paid out by attendee Evelyn Martin who said she was giving to her grandchildren, Carter, Brady and Landon Hazelton.

The food choices here are varied enough that most will find something they like whether it’s a traditional

Terrebonne General Medical Center maintained four “Get Well” tents, each dealing with a theme that involved a different aspect of being a person with cancer.

Hospital marketing associate Jessica Muntz emphasized to those visiting her tent “importance of exercise and eating healthy food” as the best plan for fighting cancer. “Living a healthy life may not be the way to avoid all disease, but it’s the part we can control,” she said.

The team in Muntz’s tent served crab and shrimp remoulade, a savory bruschetta on crackers, a mixed berry salad and lemon water, all prepared by TGMC’s chef Jackie Marsh and all free, punctuating the message that healthy eating doesn’t have to be dull.

Raffles included tickets sold by Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center for a mega-sized cooler topped by a basket of Miller Lite beer, donated by the brewing company.

The Beau Rivage casino raffled “44 Great Prizes” and Soup du Jour a Saints rocking chair. That group – one of a total of 95 teams at the event – sold out of their popular shrimp and crab soup early on

“Without Relay For Life there would be no Leah Bergeron, no Ella Purple, no me,” said Soup du Jour team member Darlene Stevens. “There just wouldn’t be as many survivors.”

Monica Crochet of a team called Stomp Out Cancer Chics said this was her first Relay for Life.

“We are just a group of friends who have all been touched by cancer in some way and got together to make a difference,” she said.

At the USI Insurance Services booth, whose theme was “Travels To the Future – A Cancer Free World,” team member Diane Theriot did her part to make this ninth year the company has participated a success.

“My husband died of cancer,” she said. “So yeah, it’s personal.”

Relay for Life