A nearly year-long as well as month-long frenzy of activities comes full circle as the main event, the 2018 Hempstead County Relay for Life comes to life on Friday night.

A nearly year-long as well as month-long frenzy of activities comes full circle as the main event, the 2018 Hempstead County Relay for Life comes to life on Friday night.
Now, over 20 years and running, RFL has not lost any of its local charm or mission, and it brings back several familiar faces in addition to its most well-identified and enduring longtime local leader, Jessie Lewis.
As Friday approaches, Lewis herself admits, “Oh my word, I am tired, but it's almost Relay time. Let me just say how proud I am of everyone for stepping up to the plate in the fight against cancer.”
For some sponsors, like Herndon Fuqua Funeral Home, the 2018 Relay takes on a special meeting as they have formed a team this year in memory of Wendy Brown Pharr, who lost her battle with cancer.
Kayce Wright, ACS Community Development Manager for the South Region of Arkansas, said, “We need to encourage our community of Hempstead and Nevada County to reach out to ACS if they are diagnosed with cancer. ACS has a 24/7 call center that is available to provide information about their free services and put them in touch with other community outreach programs who can help them through this dark time.”
Wright points out that in 2017 ACS services provided to both Hempstead and Nevada county residents included 25 in Hempstead County that involved securing 20 personal health managers, 1 wig, 1 transportation assistance, and 1 reach to recovery visit.
For Nevada County residents, 22 individuals were given free hotel nights while they were traveling for treatment, 11 people received cancer info packets and personal health manager kits, and 3 wigs were given to patients, she said.
But, Lewis also says the event is about fun, “I tell everyone at the Relay that the most important thing is to bring a smile, plan on having fun, and making memories!”
And on that note, Friday will also bring back some familiar hands for the night’s entertainment as the ageless singer and performer Rudy Preston as well as singers Terri Perkins, Carl Jackson, and Marcie Shelly all return for another Relay.
Very well-known throughout the region, Preston has been in the entertainment business spanning some 50 years. He played his first professional show at the age of 21 at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. While in the U.S. Air Force, he entertained in over 27 countries. He has played on a number of hit recordings in Nashville, TN and has written songs that were recorded by stars like, Dough Kershaw, Lynn Anderson, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Dolly Parton.
Perkins, who sings both County and Gospel songs, is employed at a local vet clinic, where she mainly loves grooming pets. She also does volunteer work at the Historic Washington State Park.
Perkins said, “She is honored to be called ‘Terry Elvis’ because her favorite performer is the one and only Elvis Presley.” Perkins also said her most important job is taking care of her mother, who is 101 years young, and who she calls “her greatest inspiration.”
Perkins said, “I pray that one day we can find a cure,” as she relates many of her friends and family members have been affected by cancer.
Jackson has been both a Watermelon Idol finalist and he has been a part of Relay for Life for a number of years. Jackson said he is inspired by two of his favorite singers, Jim Reeves and Charley Pride, which is reflected in the songs he sings.
Shelly is also a well-known and respected performer in the region, and has played area shows like the Oaklawn Opry in Texarkana.
Preston said, “She has a way with a song that touches your heart strings.  The songs in her repertoire include most of the country hits of yesterday and the current hits of today. Many of the area performers will tell you that Marcie is one of their most favorite singers. Marcie loves playing at the Relay for Life every year, and she is looking forward to this year’s relay.”
For the past six years, Lewis has either chaired or co-chaired the Hempstead County Relay for Life, and she has been a community leader in the effort locally for for 12 of the past 20 years.
As the case every year, Lewis credits a team of chairs and co-leaders in making the Relay and its associated events happen.  This year, Dave Phillips served co-chair, while Debbie Marsh, who works with both Lewis and Gayla McCoy at Southern Bakeries, has overseen Accounting.
Other chairs this year have included: Crystal Morton, Sponsorship; Alex Burton, Survivorship; Wendy Walters, Online; Susie Malone, Luminarias; McCoy, Golf Tournament; Terri Coffee, Softball Tournament; and current Miss Southwest and two-time Miss Arkansas contestant Suzie Gresham as the Beauty Pageant Chair.
2018 Relay for Life teams at Hope’s Fair Park will include Bancorp South led by Susie Malone; Hempstead Courthouse led by Karen Smith; Diamond Bank led by Amy Smith; Excelsior White Rose led by Lasheka Porter; Farmers Bank led by Janet Choate; FNB Tom Bean led by Savannah Plyler; Heather Manor led by Clay Black and Terri Coffee; Herndon Fuqua led by Jennifer Smith; Lazy W led by Dave Phillips; New Millinium led by Alex Burton; Orr Insurance led by Jamee Heflin; Pafford EMS led by Suzie Gresham; Rainbow of Challenges led by Christy Burns; RRFCU led by Christy Ward; Sisters of Hope led by Linda Gaines Burke; Southern Bakeries led by Gayla McCoy; State Farm led by Heather Doucet and Aley Mendoza; Super 1 Foods led by Jason Job; Team Holston led by Monica Holston; UAHT led by Terra Newsome, and Wadley Hosptial led by Sharon Martin.