Gonzales — Alycia Diez was 27 when she lost her battle with breast cancer.
Lindsey Mathews, her daughter, along with Mathews’ three siblings, Brigette Kerr, Monique Blank and Ryan Diez, formed Team Alycia for Relay for Life of Ascension five years ago in remembrance of their mother.
Continuing their fight to fund cancer research, members of Team Alycia joined 40 other teams at Saturday’s Relay for Life event in Gonzales.
Relay for Life, a fundraising event during which teams continuously walk or jog around a track for several hours, brings those affected by cancer together to remember their struggles and honor loved ones who have passed while raising money for the American Cancer Society.
Saturday marked the 20th year of the event in Ascension Parish, and the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center was filled with music, dancing and smiling faces. This year’s event was moved from Cabela’s to the expo center due to bad weather.
“I love the togetherness of this event,” said Blank.
Relay teams set up booths and sold various goods and services to raise money for the American Cancer Society to find cures and fight back.
This year, Team Alycia decided to sell hair extensions, manicures and handcrafted bracelets, which helped get their children involved in the event.
“Everyone here is like a family,” Mathews said, “and people sympathize.”
“Our tent is always pink,” said Kerr, who was 6 years old when her mother died.
Kerr works for Sorrento Primary School as a special education teacher. Each year, the school puts on “Pink Day,” during which children are allowed free dress for a $1 fee. All proceeds raised go to Team Alycia for the Relay for Life event.
Other teams sold food and offered face painting or photographs, and a baby goat was available for petting.
Kajun Martial Arts showcased their skills, and the Dutchtown High School cheer squad kept spirits high.
Debbie Ducote, a volunteer for Relay for Life, said that more sponsorships from large industries in the Ascension Parish area are key to helping the American Cancer Society fight back.
“We need more participation to help find cures,” she said.
Licia Chaney, a founding member of Geaux Teal, an ovarian cancer awareness organization, carried her granddaughter, Ory Ford, outside for the annual balloon release.
Chaney’s daughter, Brandi Chaney, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010. Not even a year-and-a-half later, Brandi died at the age of 30.
“My daughter told me, ‘Mom, you’ve got to do something.’ I thought, ‘What can I do?’ ” Chaney said.
“We’re trying to change the way people view ovarian cancer,” Chaney added. “Many think it’s a menopausal disease, but they’re finding out younger women can get it, too.
“The symptoms for ovarian cancer are very vague,” said Chaney. “There may be no symptoms at all.”
Chaney also noted that for ovarian cancer, there is no official screening test — like the mammogram for breast cancer — so early detection often is difficult.
After gathering outside with the other teams, Chaney and her granddaughter released their balloon in Brandi’s memory and watched as it floated off into the sky.