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Celebration of Life: Sign-up available now for Multi-Parish Relay for Life

LULING — Relay for Life is expanding its impact with a multi-parish festival of life, complete with carnival rides, music, games, food and valuable resources for families in St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.

There is still time to join in the fight against cancer by making a team for Relay for Life of Multi Parishes, taking place from noon to 10 p.m. Sept. 21 at the West Bank Bridge Park in Luling. The board-game focused theme for the event is, “LIFE may be a TWISTER, but SORRY cancer, we’re IN IT TO WIN IT!”

Henry Heaton, Community Development Manager for the American Cancer Society, is working hard to unite the parishes by highlighting the impact a national organization can have on a local level.

In St. John the Baptist Parish alone in 2018, the American Cancer Society provided 77 different resource referrals to 23 cancer patients. Ten patients received wigs through the ACS Look Good Feel Better program, in which six locals participated.

Additionally, 16 St. John residents accessed a personal health manager made available through ACS. Two patients and two caregivers were given cost-free, extended stays at the Patrick F. Taylor Hope Lodge, saving thousands on lodging and transportation costs during treatments. Another three patients stayed at other American Cancer Society partner hotels, and others received treatment rides through various transportation resources.

In combining efforts between St. John, St. Charles and Jefferson, Heaton hopes to see a stronger Relay for Life event with a larger circle of influence.

“We’re based in New Orleans, but we serve the Greater New Orleans region,” Heaton said. “We want people to realize what services we’re providing. We have our Patrick F. Taylor Lodge. Guests that live 25, 30 miles out receiving treatments in the Greater New Orleans area can stay at this hotel for free.”

Built in 2006 with a donation from Drew Brees, the Hope Lodge has a meditation room, a living room, library and outdoor patio for a laidback hotel feel, rather than a clinic atmosphere. According to Heaton, the American Cancer Society’s 1-800-227-2345 hotline also connects locals to free stays at other partner hotels located close to their treatment centers.

Retired community members or those with flexible schedules can also volunteer as drivers to transport patients to treatment.

“There are many ways we can help so close to home,” Heaton said. “Childhood cancer survivors can call and ask if we have any scholarship opportunities.”

A childhood cancer survivor himself, Heaton traveled to Memphis at age 16 to receive treatment for a cancerous tumor on the optic nerve of his right eye. His recovery inspired him to pursue a marketing internship with the American Cancer Society in college. After graduating in 2013, he worked in the New Orleans wedding industry for a while before rediscovering his love for helping cancer patients and survivors.

The American Cancer Society is currently funding 746 research grants, totaling $410,152,249 nationwide and $20,204,030 in Louisiana, according to cancer.org.

Survivors will be the VIP guests at the Sept. 21 celebration in Luling, which will include live music, a 6 p.m. survivor recognition and walk and a 9 p.m. luminaria ceremony.

There is no limit to how large teams can be, though Heaton said 10 members raising $100 each is a good number to aim for to raise $1,000. Teams can keep track of fundraising with the American Cancer Society mobile fundraising app.

“Groups can be businesses,” Heaton said. “It can be family members. It can be faith-based organizers or student-led groups for service hours. It builds morale within with community, especially in the business community.”

Please visit secure.acsevents.org to sign up or contact henry.heaton@cancer.org for more information.