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Lincoln Parish’s Relay for Life drew almost 300 participants to walk and help raise money to fund cancer research through the American Cancer So-ciety.Before the event started, Brittany Copponex, a se-nior mechanical engineer-ing major and event chair-person for Lincoln Parish, said she was very pleased with the turnout of the crowd. “Seeing Relay for Life being able to bring the whole community out for the mere cause of trying to eliminate cancer was very heartwarming,” Copponex said. “It basically sucked me in, and I love how it brings people together to raise money.”Relay for Life is an overnight event where survivors, supporters and current ﬁghters take turns walking, around the track from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. When attendees are not running or walking they can enjoy different booths with food and games to raise money for the ACS.Though the theme changes each year, this year was superhero themed.Colton Boothe, a Ruston High School senior, served as the ﬁrst speaker of the evening. Boothe was diag-nosed with acute lympho-cytic leukemia at 8 years old. He and his family have been major supporters of the Lincoln Parish Relay for Life since that time, raising more than $9,000 to help with awareness and ﬁght against cancer.Boothe said he remem- bers sitting in his hospital room, and the doctor tell-ing him he had cancer.“I didn’t know what can-cer was; I just knew that it wasn’t good,” he said. “As soon as I heard those words, I broke down cry-ing.”Boothe’s speech was followed by the start of the survivor walk. “Relay for Life truly lets you know that you’re not the only one in that boat,” Claudy Aker, survivor of lymphoma cancer, said. “I would tell any young per-son that is being affected by cancer not to chicken out and how Relay for Life has given me hope.”Jessica Boagni, a mem- ber of Delta Sigma Pi, helped the sorority partici-pate in the event and said it was her ﬁrst time ever do-ing Relay for Life. Boagni explained that she had a lot of fun and thinks that she will participate every year now.“I liked being with a group of people I enjoyed and walking for such a wonderful cause,” she said. “Even though I don’t have cancer, I felt like my partici-pation gave someone who does lots of faith.”The luminaria ceremo-ny began with small white paper bags with candles in-side that traced the outline of the track. The candles were lit in honor of sur-vivors, ﬁghters and those who have lost their lives to cancer.“We’re going to elimi-nate cancer one day,” Cop-ponex said, “I am going to be an active member of Relay for Life for the rest of my life.”
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With an opening message from the mayor of Ruston, Dan Hollingsworth, the Big Event, or-ganized by SGA was ofﬁcially un-derway Saturday morning. “I should thank you (the stu-dents) for participating in the Big Event because willingly volun-teering services to others is one of the key stones of living a good life,” Hollingsworth said. Louisiana Tech President Les Guice, Senator Rick Gallot and Vice President for Student Affairs Jim King were guest speakers.“The No. 1 role of universities is to serve,” Guice said. “We serve the citizens, our state, our com-munities and the nation.”At least 50 organizations and 1,300 volunteers ﬁlled Joe Ail-let Stadium to serve around 100 homes, said Carlton Gray, a senior sustainable supply chain manage-ment major who organized the Big Event.“As a former student as Loui-siana Tech, I rarely saw 8:30 or 9 o’clock in the morning, particular-ly on Saturdays,” Guice said.Although most of the volun-teers were Tech students, Gallot and his family also participated in the Big Event.“I have never seen a group come together like this to go out and provide service to the com-munity,” Senator Gallot said.However, gathering volunteers who are willing to wake up early is not the only challenge the SGA must face, planning the event and getting participants are two other main challenges.“You normally start prepping for this in the winter quarter,” Gray said. “Normally what we do is look at the list from the previ-ous year and call all the people who participated last year, then after that we put ads in the Ruston Daily Leader, and then the home-owners mail the ads back to us.”As part of the Big Event, vol-unteers scattered out in teams across Ruston providing services such as cleaning windows, raking leaves and throwing sticks into a pile.“I serve on UCM, which is United Campus Ministries, as their secretary and this year all the campus ministries wanted to come together and serve the Big Event as one whole group,” Cath-erine Champ, a senior business management major, said. “This is the ﬁrst year the ministries have come together, so it is a really cool opportunity to serve as one body of Christ.”As volunteers became lead-ers throughout Ruston through community service, King ended his speech to the volunteers by reminding that every student is a leader.“You guys are the leaders of this campus,” King said. “You are the leaders of this community. Model the way for one another. Model the way for the community. You are leaders here and you are leaders tomorrow.”
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Luminaries placed around the track honored those who have survived cancer, those who are battling cancer and have lost their lives to cancer.
Relay raises money, awareness
Big Event gives back to Ruston community
Photo by Devin Dronett