LOUISVILLE — The sun, for a change, shone brightly on the purple T-shirts of the cancer survivors scattered about the crowd at the first Massena/Louisville Rally For A Cure Friday evening.
Rally For A Cure is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and is organized in Louisville by the same folks who previously ran Relay For Life.
“We changed it because nobody walks the laps anymore,” Vonda K. Davis, the survivor chairperson of the event at the Louisville Community Center said. “We’re trying to get people to do other things.”
The scene looks very familiar, if smaller, to anybody who has attended a Relay For Life.
The track is lined with luminarias decorated with the names of people who have lost their lives to cancer or those that are still fighting. There is food and raffles and crafts for sale, all aimed at raising money to find a cure for the deadly disease.
And, Just like a Relay For Life event, a cancer survivor, who has been named an honorary chairperson takes the stage and tells their story.
For Lucas R. Purser, the honorary chair in Louisville, his message was simple, “Don’t quit.”
Mr. Purser’s perseverance is remarkable. The 2008 graduate of Massena High School has had multiple surgeries since his first diagnosis with chondrosarcoma in 2011. Chondrosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that mainly affects bones, has resulted in the loss of his right arm, four lung surgeries and surgery to remove a tumor on is spine, in which his T2 vertebrae had to be removed and replaced with four rods, eight screws and a cage to protect his spine.
“It seems like something pops up every year,” Mr. Purser said. “But, I won’t quit. I’m too stubborn.”
Mr. Purser is an Air Force security forces veteran who had to retire when he lost his arm. Now, he is about to enter his senior year at Buffalo State College where he is pursuing a degree in computer science and has thus far received all As in his courses.
“There is one A minus,” he told the crowd during his speech to a rousing round of applause.
Most everybody at the event has been touched by cancer, Ms. Davis said.
“I specifically got involved because my daughter Karissa was 13 years old when she was diagnosed with brain cancer.”
It was Karissa, who was an honorary chair last year, that recruited Mr. Purser for his role this year.
Relay For Life was born in 1985, when Dr. Gordon Klatt ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Wash., to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
As Ms. Davis looked over a table of snacks set out for the survivors at the event, she reflected on the focus on survivors.
“We want to show them that we are fighting for them,” she said, “to show them that we are on their side.”