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Relay for Life goes on the road

LUTCHER — Relay on the Road: Journey to a Cancer-Free World is taking the place of the traditional 12-hour, in person Relay for Life this year in the River Parishes.

Throughout the month of April, St. James Relay for Life teams will host fundraising pit stops to raise money for cancer research. According to Lindsey Chauvin, event lead for the St. James Parish Relay for Life and the team captain for Nucor Louisiana’s relay team, many of the pit stop fundraisers will involve box dinners with a drive-thru pick-up.

It will all lead up to a luminary trail at Lutcher Park on April 24. Luminary bags purchased in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of those who have lost the battle will light up the roadway. Survivors are able to drive through from 6:30 to 7 p.m., taking the place of the “Survivors’ Lap” at traditional Relay events.

“It’s still not safe for survivors to interact with the general public, but we still want to honor and celebrate them in a traditional Relay fashion,” Chauvin said.

Other team members can drive through between 7 and 9 p.m. The luminary trail leads to a memorial slideshow with photos of loved ones who have succumbed to cancer.

Relay on the Road will function similar to the 2020 Relay for Life event. However, this year presents more hurdles when it comes to fundraising.

“Last year, we were able to do most of our fundraising prior to the shut down, but we still couldn’t gather. On May 9, we hosted a luminary trail to wrap up the Relay season and make sure people could see the bags that they had purchased,” Chauvin said.

St. James Relay for Life has been a Top 10 per capita Relay for Life event since the late 1990s. When dividing fundraising dollars by the amount of people living in the area, St. James Relay for Life has grown to become one of the Top 10 Relay fundraisers in the nation. The local event became the top in the state in 2018 and has continued to hold that title.

Chauvin said it is more important than ever to be steadfast in fundraising efforts to find improved treatment options, better diagnostic tools and, ultimately, a cure for cancer.

“For the past couple of years, we have broken the $500,000 mark. COVID has impacted everyone in some way, but it also has impacted the American Cancer Society. Just last year, they saw a 30 percent reduction in fundraising in Relay for Life events due to the world shutting down,” Chauvin said. “My goal is to bring it back to that high level that we’ve seen in the past, and we’re going to do everything we can to break that $500,000 mark.”

Chauvin first got involved with St. James Parish Relay for Life as a student in the Lutcher High School Beta Club. When she moved back home as a working adult, Relay for Life became a way to get back involved in the community while fighting for a worthy cause.

Over time, cancer has become more and more personal to her. She’s had a close aunt diagnosed with breast cancer, and two members of the Nucor Louisiana team have had to watch their children fight cancer. One child lost their battle, while another is currently fighting through it.

“As a mom, it’s something that I know can touch me and my family. I feel like I need to be doing something now,” Chauvin said. “The only way to make sure that we do one day have a cancer-free world is to fundraise and direct as many dollars as we can to research and development.”
St. James Parish Relay for Life sees a lot of involvement from St. John Parish and St. Charles Parish since there are no other Relay for Life events in the River Parishes. There are no borders and no rules about who can participate; St. James Relay for Life is open to all.

Teams are asked to sign up as soon as possible at www.relayforlife.org/stjamesla. Please check the Relay for Life of St. James Facebook page for updates, including a full calendar of fundraising pit stops for the month of April.