Back for the 14th year, Grayson County Relay for Life is hoping to raise money for cancer research this weekend. The event will be held from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at Scott Middle School in Denison. A survivor lunch will be held at 11:30 a.m.

Saturday’s relay will include a dodge ball tournament. Teams can participate for $20 and individuals can compete for $5. Also, there will be a free kid zone with bounce house, $1 drawings, vendors, food trucks, zumba and karaoke.

Entertainment will be provided by local musician Kolton Hall and returning performer American Idol Season 13 finalist Jessica Meuse.

Meuse said that she is excited to return to Grayson County for this event because cancer affects everyone.

“It’s important for me to be involved in such an important cause because, for one, it brings people together,” she said in an email interview. “Secondly, I believe that raising awareness and money for the Relay For Life not only searches for a cure and pays for treatments, but it instills HOPE which is critical to the recovery and — if you’ve lost a loved one — healing.”

Meuse said that she has a family friend who she considers one of her adopted family members that is currently battling an aggressive form of breast cancer.

“I also just lost a friend who had a long battle with cancer over several years…,” Meuse’s email said. “Cancer affects us all and it’s important to come together to fight it and spread healing, love, and hope. Music is a tool, and I am grateful to use it for such an amazing cause like the American Cancer Society Relay For Life.”

Along with the performances Saturday, Dave Tuck will give a talk titled, “Balance Your Mind — Heal Your Body” from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“I just want people to be happy,” Meuse said about what she wants people to leave thinking after the event. “I want people to take the message that cancer will not stop us from celebrating life, those we loved and lost to their battle with cancer, and searching for a cure. We will find that silver lining and come together through music and togetherness as a community. I just want people to have a good time. Cry if you need to cry. Laugh if you wanna laugh. Feel how you wanna feel and let it out. What I want people to take from this performance is strength, hope, and happiness.”

Since Grayson County has been participating in the event benefiting the American Cancer Society, this area has raised more than $1.3 million. Last year, Grayson County raised $61,972.

The American Cancer Society said last year it provided services to 102 Grayson County residents. These included 45 personalized health managers for patients and 48 nights of free lodging to patients and their caregivers.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Meuse said about the spread of cancer. “It’s devastating… But through events and fundraising with causes like the Relay for Life, I believe that one day we will defeat cancer, once and for all. The relay is also a wonderful way to remember those we have lost as well as take a stand for those currently fighting their battle against cancer. My message has remained the same, and it will always be one of strength and overcoming all obstacles — and that includes defeating cancer forever.”

Meuse remembers when her father had a skin cancer spot on his nose when she was a little girl.

“I didn’t understand it, and although it was removed and he was okay, I didn’t KNOW THAT,” Meuse’s email said. “I didn’t know the difference between specific cancers and how they affect people and spread or don’t spread. It was horrifying, and I was so afraid for my father.”

At the time, Meuse had already lost two of her grandparents to cancer, and one of them passed away before Meuse could meet her. She said that the experience caused her to grow up fast.

“It broke my heart to see (my grandfather) hurt like that,” she said. “I also have a dear friend at home — more like a sister, really — who has been there for me since I was singing in pizza joints for three and four-hour sets, and she’s currently fighting aggressive breast cancer. Cancer is one of those things that makes you really realize, ‘Woah, we’re human,’ and ‘Woah, this is real.’”

Cancer — through the individual affected or their family effected — can be a wake-up call to your health, Meuse said, and it can be a reminder that sometimes the physical body can fail us.

“As I’ve gotten older, lost loved ones, and witnessed loved ones battling, cancer has made me value people in my life MORE than ever before,” the email said. “Life is the longest thing we’ve got, but it’s also the shortest and most irreplaceable. Let people know you love them. Smile at a stranger.”

Meuse ended her email by saying she wants a cure to be found.

“I want cancer gone,” she said. “I would love to see a break through one morning on the news that just says, ‘Cancer CURED.’ And even once we get there (because I believe someday we will), I also want people to remember those we’ve lost to it — we should never forget them.”

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