Music, Zumba, dance, song, prayer, raffles, art and lots of information, “H.O.P.E. for a Day” and “Paint the Town Pink” events this past Saturday had everything, including the crowds.
Pink was the color on children, men, women, dogs and every decorated booth and display, even the water of the fountain reflected the love and hope of the day. Besides the color, the more than 250 walkers and crew members also wore smiles. There were some tears at times remembering loved ones and friends who weren’t among the survivors, but mostly it was a day of celebration.
The HOPE walk participants left the square early and after their 10 mile trek were welcomed back with cheers and bubbles. HOPE, Helping Other People Endure, had arranged the walk to raise funds for the Troup County area to give support and help to cancer victims and their families. Through their efforts, the walkers raised more than $100,000.
Wanda Lowe, chairperson of the Breast Friends for Life and a 11-year cancer survivor, kept the events of the day on schedule with a high level of enthusiasm and compassion. Lowe started the schedule of events off by introducing Nancy Wardlaw of Treasure Hunters, who gave the invocation.
Mary Walker, MSPT, certified Lebed Method, got the crowd going with an invigorating Healthy Steps demonstration. Kelly Kemp had people moving and grooving to the rocking beats of Zumba where Lowe even offered her expertise. Dr. Mel Stewart gave a moving talk followed by the singer Kevin Dunn delivering his usual array of beautiful, heart-felt arrangements. Pam Herndon, founder of the HOPE for the Day walk, then took the stage to welcome the walkers back to the square.
In a shower of cheers and bubbles, the walkers were escorted through large wooden pink ribbons and right in front of the stage. While the walkers had been making their way to the stage area, cancer survivors gathered together in front of Mansour’s and prepared to make their own entrance to the stage area.
The walkers formed two rows and each took off one shoe, sneaker or boot and raised them to touch one from the opposite row. Thus the walkers formed the “arch of heroes” where the the survivors were invited to proudly walk through. Cancer survivor Patti Brazeal, holding her 13-month-old great niece, Lilah Monteith, was the first one to make her way through the arch.
City Councilman Jim Thornton spoke to the crowd, welcoming the walkers, survivors, family and friends.
“I would like to welcome everyone on behalf of Mayor Jeff Lukken and all of the members of the city council to downtown LaGrange, but specifically to Lafayette Square,” Thornton said. “Lafayette Square is the literal and spiritual symbolic center of our town. It is a place where we gather for all important events such as today. Thank you for coming out and supporting this cause.”
The winners of the various “Paint the Town Pink” contests were announced along with the names of the two HOPE scholarship recipients. Winners were:
•Kim Skiff of CB&T in the business division,
•Pam Hall’s array pink flamingos on Vernon Road took best-decorated residence,
•Unity Elementary School in the school division,
•Carla White, with a team of 51 members, had the largest team of walkers
•and Emily Harris was the largest single contributor.
Students Abigail Hall and Leslie Smith were announced by Carla White as being this year’s recipients of the HOPE scholarships.
Luke Whitney then read his essay on volunteerism. Whitney described how his mother being diagnosed with breast cancer had affected him and his family. His essay described in candid detail how his mother and family’s continued commitment to volunteerism helped them all through such a difficult time.
The formal segments of the day ended with Lowe, Herndon and all of the the day’s participants blowing bubbles, singing and exchanging hugs. Herndon said the bubbles symbolized the fragile nature of our lives, and as they break apart, the passing of our loved ones. She went on to explain the purpose of HOPE.
“HOPE is about supporting those fighters, its about honoring our taken, but most of all it is about never, ever giving up hope, ” Herndon said. “The bubbles are for remembering the ones who we have lost but to celebrate all of the survivors who are with us today.”