As the Hempstead County Relay for Life wraps up its current campaign year, it stood just $3,000 from its overall goal, but always thinking bigger and better, longtime RFL Chair Jessie Lewis has the next big thing on her mind.

As the Hempstead County Relay for Life wraps up its current campaign year, it stood just $3,000 from its overall goal, but always thinking bigger and better, longtime RFL Chair Jessie Lewis has the next big thing on her mind.
“Right now, Hempstead County is about $3,000 away from our $65,000 fundraising goal.  We will be fundraising until August 31,” Lewis said.
Relay For Life, the nationally known fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society, just celebrated its 20th year in Hope, but in recent emails, Lewis is advocating reaching out to Nevada County with the possible idea that the 21st anniversary of the event may just be a combined “Mega Relay.”
In a follow-up with Lewis, she said, “RFL Hempstead County would love the opportunity to expand into Nevada County for a joint Relay Event. There are several rural counties in Arkansas who have joined forces; some are two counties, and there are even Tri-County Relays, like in Glenwood. I have been to the RFL in Glenwood and it is huge.”
Lewis also wants to spread the message that American Cancer Society services are available for residents of both Hempstead and Nevada Counties.
“I want to enlighten people in Nevada County that it is ok to donate to RFL Hempstead County because the Nevada residents benefit, too. It is important for the residents of Nevada County know that the ACS services are there for them too,” she said.
According to Lewis, a recent ACS report that shows 25 Hempstead residents as well as 20 Nevada residents have benefited from various ACS services.
“But this report also tells me that there are citizens in both places who are not aware of the free services the ACS provides. According to Suburban Stats, Hempstead County has 22,608 residents and Nevada County has 8,887 residents. Yet only 55 residents have taken advantage of these services. I think there are more than 55 residents in both counties who have been diagnosed with cancer,” she said.
With in Arkansas, there have been other rural Arkansas counties like Desha and Chicot counties have done similar Relay mergers.  Lewis said there has been talk about the concept before.
“There has been talk in the past, at least on the Hempstead County side, and we would like to pull Nevada county on board to combine the two counties efforts in the fight against cancer. Keep in mind that Nevada County does some fundraising for cancer, but it is not affiliated with ACS,” she said.
Certain logistics would also have to be developed, including the idea of possibly rotating the Relay sites between Prescott and Hope every other year.
“That is something that would have to be discussed. RFL Hempstead County is open to the idea of rotating locations, if Prescott has a location that can support the electrical and other functions that we need to put on Relay,” Lewis said.
And what would such a joint Hempstead Nevada Relay look like?  Lewis envisions an overall RFL chair over both counties, and then two co-chairs for each county who report to the overall chair.
“I think a combined Relay would look like a county fair, twice the amount of people, and twice the fun due to more tents and on-site events. I think each county would do their own fundraisers during the year, and then join together on the night of Relay. This would be a tremendous,” she said.
All funds would go to the combined Hempstead/Nevada County RFL, Lewis said, adding that she hopes the idea can catch on and become a reality, sooner than later.
“I love team work and volunteering for a charity that is committed to finding a cure for cancer and where some of the money helps local residents. It is very touching to hear a cancer survivor or cancer patient talk about the ACS benefits that helped them through a difficult time, and gave them hope,” she said.