Excitement and cheers filled the air at Ned Houk Park north of Clovis during the Relay for Life kick-off Friday.
Brother and sister Cutter and Tayci Burnett started the event off with the National Anthem followed by the speeches of guests, such as Molly Smith, a relay participant currently battling breast cancer.
“On Wednesday of this week, I completed my radiation and I am now in remission,” Smith told her audience. “I praise God for the last year. It has been difficult but with the support from this community, I have been able to work almost every day.”
Smith said she received an overwhelming amount of support from the community, from letters and prayers to home-cooked meals and people caring for her children.
“I’ve been involved since I moved to Clovis,” Smith said of the Relay for Life. “But this year, it hits close to home. It’s an incredible event. Especially for families who are facing the cost of treatment.”
Smith said the event was all the more meaningful to her because so many of her family and friends were there with her.
“Today is a day of celebration for me,” she said.
Smith’s 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, donated $140 she made babysitting to the event.
“I just felt it on my heart today to give it,” Elizabeth Smith said. “One day there will be a cure and I can know I had a part in that.”
Elizabeth also walked in the event as part of her mother’s team.
Rebecca Holt, a committee member for the event, said she lost her mother to brain cancer and her father to lung cancer and her sister is a survivor.
“I’ve got several friends and family who have battled and survived,” Holt said. “It’s about making that connection to our cancer survivors and remembering those we’ve lost. We’re gonna keep fighting back for a cure.”
Holt said the event keeps getting better every year.
“The more money we make, the closer we get to a cure,” she said. “In my mind, together we can make a difference.”
Javion Lowery, 12, walked in the event with classmates from his school, Mesa Elementary.
He said his mother is a cancer survivor.
“It just feels good to help people out,” Lowery said of participating in the event. “It’s exercising and for a good cause.”
Don “Doc” Elder, cancer survivor and history teacher at Eastern New Mexico University, was a guest speaker at the event and had previously served as master of ceremonies three times.
“All of us cancer survivors share that fear but also that hope,” Elder said. “It’s easy to think, I can beat cancer but then you recognize that some faces are missing and there’s still a fight.”
Elder said he hopes to see all the familiar faces every year but some do not return because they lose their battle with cancer. He said that is what makes sharing any of his time and talent at the event worthwhile.
“We all recognize that the world will be a better place with a cure,” Elder.
The event continued through the night with closing ceremonies set for 9 a.m. today.