WAXAHACHIE — If someone were to ask Brandi Shelley and Mary Ruth Mitchell for their opinions regarding the 2017 Relay for Life event held at Getzendaner Park on May 12, they would reply — without any hesitation — that “everyone who attended had a FUN time.”
Relay for Life has been a special part of Mitchell's life for 20 years now. From the time Patty Chagnon invited her to take on the role as the event chair, it has been a way of life for her. She considers serving as a co-event chair to be a privilege and works hard to assist the American Cancer Society in its quest to find a cure for all types of cancer.
Although the 2017 “Hope Fest” had a different twist this year, Mitchell said he heard many of the 200 team members and guests who attended calling the event "cozy” and "fun."
The Relay for Life of Central Ellis County event kicked off just after 6 p.m. when Brandi Shelley welcomed those in attendance and introduced Pastor Kenneth Alexander for the opening prayer. Girl Scout Cadets Troup No. 2285 then recited The Pledge of Allegiance while presenting the colors. The audience also joined in the singing of “God Bless America,” which was beautifully sung by Jade Flores.
All of the survivors were then invited to the front of the stage where they held hands and swayed to the music of the crowd-favorite survivor song, “Lean on Me.” Shelley placed a survivor medal around each of their necks and the Girl Scouts then escorted the Survivors back to their seats.
The music continued when “The Redwine Band” took the stage and the party began. The band played two sets during the night and was joined by the Waxahachie High School Charmers. The drill team entertained the crowds and even invited everyone to join in during the "Chicken Dance," plus many more fun dances. Several team members and guests, including Cindy Smith from CNB, joined in the fun.
There was also a "Kid Zone," that included a huge bounce house and Dusty the Clown, which a big success for the children in attendance. The emcee, Jeff Gentry, kept the entire group rocking and rolling all night long. He even added a few “very bad” jokes for everyone to try not to remember.
Shelley and Mitchell send a special "thank you" to the food vendors plus the various other vendors who added a unique flair to the evening. They also expressed gratitude to the corporate sponsors, as the event would not be possible without their backing.
The top three relay teams brought in $22,426.00 in donations — more than half of the $40,000 raised from the event.
The top team, "Friends for Life," was led by Patti Junkin and consisted of Patty Smith, Dr. Priscilla Parker, Susan Rominger, Cindy Smith, Mary Ruth Mitchell, Peggy Brady, Beverly Horak and Michele LaQuay. The team raised $11,398.
The second place team, "Dart" led by Lorrainne Johnson, netted $8,498, while the "Stell Magnolias," led by Lisa Pope and Rhonda Harris, raised another $2,530.
The Luminaire Ceremony closed out the evening and began with Mitchell delivering a short speech. At approximately 9 p.m., many of the lights in the area were turned off, and hundreds of luminaire bags were lit with candles in “Memory Of” or “In Honor Of" friends and loved ones who have been affected by cancer.
The names of everyone who had a Luminaire bag made by a relative or friend were read out loud. A large lighted sign reading, "HOPE" was displayed on the hill overlooking the event.
Scott Shepherd, Worship Pastor of First Baptist Church in Maypearl, led the closing prayer.
On Thursday night, May 11, a Survivor Dinner was held at the Comfort Suites with decorations provided by Steven Kasper, Charity Trull and Michelle Chagnon and the food donated by The Vault BBQ and the Lovin Oven Bakery. Entertainment was also provided and a raffle held for the 40 people in attendance.