Jackie Wallis enjoys serving as Community Representative

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jackie Wallis is no stranger to Buffalo Island or the American Cancer Relay for Life. Wallis serves as the Community Representative and serves Buffalo Island, Piggott, Corning, Jonesboro, Paragould, and Newport.

Buffalo Island Relay for Life co-chairman Rebecca Clowers; chairman Brenda Matheny; and Community Representative Jackie Wallis, talk about the upcoming Relay for Life of Buffalo Island. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

He is married to the former Terry Rose, a native of Leachville.

This is Wallis' second year to be on staff and serve as community representative for the American Cancer Relay for Life.

He volunteered for over 14 years serving as captain on a team on the Relay for Life in Craighead County, and served as chairman several years for the Relay for Life in Jonesboro.

"I loved working with the American Cancer Relays as a volunteer and I am excited to be on staff," Wallis said. "This is the best job a person can have. It is making a difference in lives."

The Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser of the American Cancer Society and was started with one man, Dr. Gordy Klatt, of Tacoma, Washington, in 1985. That first relay raised $27,000 for cancer. The next year 19 teams took part raising $33,000.

Wallis said total amounts from Relays for Life have gone from that first $27,000 in 1985 to $4 billion at the end of April.

Relays are overnight events signifying Cancer never sleeps

"I have always said it doesn't take people doing a lot, just a lot of people doing a little," Wallis said.

Wallis said if every person in Arkansas donated one penny a day for a year, it would raise over $10 million dollar. If everyone in the United States gave one penny a day it would be over a billion dollars.

"Think about it," he said.

Funds from the Relay of Life are divided four ways. Wallis refers to it as EARS -- education, advocacy, research, and services.

Literature is available and help getting the word out about the importance of sunscreen, check-ups," Wallis said. "The earlier the detection, the better it is for the person with cancer."

Advocacy is important to stay in touch with our legislatures and work with them to enact laws to benefit cancer victims.

Wallis said research is the big thing. The Cancer Society has funded over 40 researches that have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Familiar research facilities closest to this area include UAMS and St. Jude.

"We can't just write a check to individuals," Wallis said. "The funds raised have helped the research in lifesaving treatments. The average cancer treatment per person costs one half to one million dollars. With an average of $4.3 million raised a year, we could only help four to eight people. I certainly would not want to be on the board who picked who got the help and who did not. All of the funds raised from the Relay for Life goes to the Cancer Society and divided into the four areas to help best overall.

"My overall hope is someday cancer will be reduced to the point there would be no need for Relays for Life.

"Through the Patient Services there are programs available such as "Look Good, Feel Better," Reach to Recovery," mentoring programs for breast cancer victims and prostate cancer victims, and more."

The Relay for Life works because it is volunteer driven. There are 71 events in Arkansas. Without the volunteers, this would not be possible.

This is the 10th annual Relay for Life of Buffalo Island. This year's event will be held on June 24 at the Leachville City Park.

Wallis and Buffalo Island Relay Chairman Brenda Matheny both said it is never too late for a team. A team can be a group of 2 to 200 who want to fight cancer.

"We encourage family teams," Wallis said.

This year's Relay at Buffalo Island is a sports' theme. Pick a team, pick a sport and join the 10th annual BI Relay.

The survivor walk will begin at approximately 6:30 p.m. Cancer survivors will be recognized and will take the first victory walk. Family members and team members will join in the all night walk.

There is also a Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand bearing names in memory of friends and family who have lost their battle to cancer and in honor of cancer survivors.

There are food booths, games, and entertainment the night of the relay.

Wallis is a good sport and if the Buffalo Island Relay raises $20,000 net he will let them cut his hair.

The challenge has been put out there and the race is on to meet the goal with fundraisers.

Music events, poker run, wrestling events, bake sales, Valentine dances, Easter events, Spring fling, and much more have been held.

More fundraising events are underway including donations for quilts, a silent auction, and more.

A survivor's social will be held at the Leachville Community Center on June 12 at 2 p.m. All area survivors and family members are encouraged to attend.

"We look forward to a large turnout for our survivors at the Relay to help kick of the event," Chairman Brenda Matheny said.

Co-chairman Rebecca Clowers has been gathering and putting together a Relay for Life of Buffalo Island cookbook as a fundraiser.

For more information on the Relay for Life Buffalo Island contact Matheny at 870-539-6728; cell phone 530-1113.

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