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Hundreds gather to combat cancer

Hard times don’t affect the heart.

Not in Pike County.

Once again, the people of Pike County opened their hearts and their pocketbooks in an effort to continue to wage war against the disease that touches the lives of so many. And, their generosity was overwhelming, as the grand total raised for Relay for Life came out to be $153, 384.80

Cancer is a formidable foe but battles are won every day against the disease. Through the efforts of the millions across the country, who are committed to the fight, one day the final victory will be celebrated.

On Friday night, hundreds packed the Relay field at the Troy Sportsplex and celebrated those who have survived the devastating disease, remembered those lives that were lost and gave encouragement and support to those who are in the fight.

One of the biggest celebrations of the night was held in easy earshot of center stage, where Alex Morgan was turning eight years old.

Alex’s seventh birthday was spent in Children’s Hospital in Birmingham where he was a very sick little boy. Cancer had invaded his body, seemingly almost overnight. One day he was on the ball field and a short time later he couldn’t walk.

But on Friday night, May 7, 2010, Relay day in Pike County, Alex celebrated his eighth birthday with his friends from Banks School, family, friends and well-wishers.

“I’m not sure that Alex ever knew how sick he really was,” his mother Kim Morgan said. “He was brave through it all.”

Looking back on the year, Morgan said every day she thanks the Lord for seeing her family through those dark days of uncertainty.

“We just turned it over to the Lord, and He saw us through,” she said. “I think the hardest part was holding back the tears. We couldn’t let Alex see us cry. It’s so hard to smile when all you want to do is cry.”

The Morgans know the power of prayer and they also know that the advances that have been made in the diagnoses and treatment of cancer are making a difference. The difference is in the face of a happy eight-year-old boy and a 13-year-old middle school student.

Delaney Davenport was nearly nine years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. She is now a strong supporter of Relay for Life.

“Because I don’t ever want anyone to feel that kind of pain,” Delaney said. “Sometimes I think about getting cancer again and that scares me but I don’t think about it too much. I just try to help all that I can. A lot of children get cancer and that makes me sad.”

Little EB Johnson is in the fight against cancer and her presence at Relay was an inspiration and a visible reason to stay the fight, Danny Rhodes said. “She’s a fighter, and we’re going to fight with her.”

The mood of the night was festive because of the victories that have been won over cancer and because of the will of so many to continue the fight until the battle is won.

Ralph Black, honorary chair of the 2010 Pike County Relay for Life campaign, said more than 3.5 million people took part in Relay events around the nation last year and raised more than $386 million for the war chest against the disease.

“And, Pike County, Alabama is always in the top percentage for per capita giving,” he said. “That’s amazing for a county of our size.”

In the 2008-09 Relay campaign, Pike County was in the Mid South Division’s Top 20 per capita in Alabama and in the Top 25 in the Division.

Pam Little and Rhonda Turberville, co-chairs of the 2009-2010 Pike County Relay for Life campaign expressed appreciation to all of those who have worked so hard to make the campaign a success – the Relay board, the teams and all of those who have given so generously.

“Cancer never sleeps,” Turberville said.

“Neither can we. We can make a difference, and we will.”

Little said less cancer means more birthdays.

“We want to celebrate more birthdays, just as we celebrated Alex’s eighth birthday tonight, so we must not give up the fight.”

Fundraising totals were not available before the time of press Friday.

Look for the amounts on www.troymessenger.com.