OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Every year, more than a half a million people in the U.S. die from cancer. The American Cancer Society is working hard to bring those numbers down. One way is through research, but that costs a lot of money. That's why the hundreds of Relay for Life fundraisers held across the country each year are so important.
If one word stood out at Friday night's Relay for Life in Ocean Springs, it was "survivor." Cancer survivors felt right at home, and were given shirts and medals. Those who didn't survive were remembered with a display of signs.
At every Relay for Life, there are dozens of emotional stories. Some are sad, some are triumphant, but all are very powerful. Bobby Styron is a cancer survivor.
"My wife, Rosa Styron, died a year ago this past Valentine's Day of stage four cancer." Styron said. "And this is a very important thing in my life now."
It's also very important to Stella Clegg, who helped to organize the event.
"We want to raise awareness and educate people, and ultimately find a cure for cancer," Clegg said.
Those who did find a cure took the first lap around the path to the applause of the spectators. A setting sun was the perfect backdrop for their victory march around the track.
Even younger people took part and know how important this event really is. Victoria Nores is the youth chair for the event.
"You don't know how important cancer is until it touches your life," Nores said. "And to educate the teens, it helps us to become the adults one day and become the committee leaders."
There was plenty of fun and games during the evening, all designed to help raise money for cancer research. But perhaps the best message of all comes from Gabrielle Spicer, known across the coast for her courageous battle the disease.
"I hope that no one else has to deal with what I had to deal with, because it was, like, really scary and really hard," Spicer said.
What won't be hard to achieve is a newfound feeling of hope events like this create.
In addition to the Relay in Ocean Springs, others were held Friday night in the Hurley community of Jackson County, and also in Hancock County. Another will be held in Pascagoula next month, and George County will host a Relay in June.