Franklin County’s oldest cancer, Orville Pounders, and the county’s youngest survivor, Savannah Davis, were honored at the Relay Survivor Dinner this past Thursday. Pictures by Tonya James.
Franklin County’s oldest cancer survivor, Orville Pounders, and the county’s youngest survivor, Savannah Davis, were honored at the Relay Survivor Dinner this past Thursday. Pictures by Tonya James.

Archived Story

Survivor dinner serves as inspiration

Published 11:51am Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Franklin County Relay For Life is set for this Friday, but one of the events held each year that is just as special for many county residents is the annual Survivor Dinner.

In recent years, the Relay Survivor Dinner has been held each year the week before Relay For Life as a way to set aside a special time to honor those who have fought one of life’s toughest battles.

This year, the dinner was held this past Thursday at the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville with Bank Independent serving as hosts.

Belinda Johnson, Franklin County Relay For Life committee chairperson, was diagnosed with cancer in June 2005, and she said the Survivor Dinner is one of her favorite events each year.

“It is so great to have all of our cancer survivors and caregivers together in one room,” Johnson said.

“It’s one time out of the year where we can all come together and offer support to one another and to celebrate our journey.”

Johnson said there are many people who have been loyal participants of the Survivor Dinner each year and many friendships that have been formed through the annual gathering.

“The dinner is also great, though, because those who are new survivors can receive hope and inspiration from so many others who have fought their battles and have been survivors for many years,” she said.

Johnson said the evening was also a special time to honor the survivors’ caregivers as well.

“Caregivers play a very important role in this journey, and I am so glad that we are able to recognize them,” Johnson said.

This year’s speaker was Maudie Bedford, wife of Sen. Roger Bedford.

Maudie Bedford was diagnosed with cancer in June 2012 and she spoke to the group about her journey as both a cancer survivor and a caregiver for her husband, who battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 24 years ago.

Russellville resident Lynn Suddith and her husband, Rick, have attended the Survivor’s Dinner since the dinners were first started since she has been a caregiver and her husband is a cancer survivor, and she said it’s always encouraging.

“In May 1994, a few weeks after he had run the Boston Marathon, my husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” Suddith said.

“Following his diagnosis, we went immediately to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston where he was given a 50 percent chance of surviving five years.

“That was 20 years ago and we’ve attended the Survivor’s Dinner since they began having them in conjunction with the Franklin County Relay For Life.

“We go to bring encouragement to others who may have just been recently diagnosed with this dreaded disease. Relay raises money that helps fund research for a cure and also to make things easier for those going through treatment.”

Johnson said that all the local survivors and caregivers will be honored once again at the Relay For Life this Friday at the RHS Stadium. The opening ceremonies and Survivor Lap will begin at 7 p.m. The Luminaria Ceremony honoring all those who have battled cancer will begin at 9 p.m.

“The Relay For Life itself is an inspiration and motivator for those who are actively going through treatment,” Johnson said.

“We want a record number of people at the Relay For Life this year to line the football track and cheer on those who have fought the good fight and those who are currently struggling in the fight.

““We never know when cancer will knock on our door and we need everyone’s support to help the people in our community, in our church, in our workplace, and in our families fight back against cancer.”

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