When Lexi Mahaffey participates in the American Cancer Society fundraiser Relay for Life, for at least her fifth year in a row, the event will have a special resonance this time. The Clinton High School tenth grader is now battling cancer herself.
In the past year, Mahaffey, 15, had a skull base tumor, two surgeries to remove it and radiation treatment.
Lexi, daughter of Eddie and Jennifer Mahaffey, will be honored as The Heart of Relay for 2018 at the event, which is set for 6 p.m. on April 20 at the Hinds Community College tennis courts in Raymond.
“I don’t think that she really expected anything like that. I know I didn’t expect anything like that,” her mother, Jennifer Mahaffey says. “It kind of brought tears to my eyes. It’s a nice honor.”
For Lexi, “I was a little nervous, but now I’m kind of happy about it,” she says. She’ll make a speech. “I’m pretty introverted, so definitely having to speak at this is kind of a little out of my bubble, but I’m excited about it.”
With her long-time involvement in Relay for Life, “it’s just always been a part of my life. So, I think that’s going to stay the same,” Lexi says. “But I think this year might mean a little more than normal.”
“Lexi has been involved in Relay for Life since she was little, and she’s been on my team as long as I’ve had a team” at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, says Cheri Hodges, co-chair of Relay for Life’s survivors reception. “She’s always been extremely passionate about it. This year, when she received the cancer diagnosis, it only seemed fitting we would honor her in a special way.”
When Hinds County event chair Shaquita Burke looked at photos displayed for the Relay for Life kickoff, “I saw Lexi in a great majority of pictures over the years,” Burke says. “For somebody to be supporting Relay for Life before she was even diagnosed, we just thought it was a good idea to honor the hard work she’s doing and show our support.”
Lexi, who recently received radiation treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, says “I’m doing good with everything.”
Lexi says her whole family, in Clinton since she was in the first grade, has been doing the Relay for Life for a while, and that her older sister, Emily, now 27, got involved when she was in high school. “I guess that’s what got me started with it. Then, I just liked it so much, I kept coming back.
“I really like how it’s just one big community, and everybody was just there for you whenever you need them,” she says. “It is a really good environment to be in.”
Relay for Life Hinds County on April 20 will include an opening ceremony, survivor/caregiver walk, a luminaria ceremony and a closing ceremony. Fundraising leads up to the event and continues onsite with games, activities, food sales, raffles and entertainment throughout the evening, until midnight.
The 2018 theme is “Let’s Toon Out Cancer,” with cartoon-based takeoffs at teams’ “campsites.”
During the relay, each team has a team member out on the track at all times.
“The idea is that cancer never sleeps, so we’re never going to rest until a cure is found,” Hodges says.
The event is free and open to the general pubic. Attendance has ranged from about two hundred, when the event was held in Clinton’s Olde Towne in 2016, to close to three hundred people, including more kids, when the event was held at HCC last year, Burke says. They came within $300 of reaching their $50,000 goal in 2017. By cutting expenses, they hope to hit that $50,000 target this year.
Involving more kids in Relay for Life is a definite aim, Burke says. “Lexi proved that…once they get involved, even at a younger age, they understand the importance and the mechanics of it. It becomes ingrained in them, and they want to participate more;” and that’s where the next crop of leaders comes from.
Lexi says some of her friends have gotten more interested in Relay for Life.
“I just think it might mean a little bit more to them, knowing that it’s me, instead of strangers.”
To participate in this year’s Relay for Life, or for more information, call Lizzy Givan at 360-201-9037, or visit www.relayforlife.org and search for the Relay for Life Hinds County event.
Lexi Mahaffey of Clinton is The Heart of Relay for 2018. This past year, Mahaffey was diagnosed with a skull base tumor and has had it removed.
A young Mahaffey at a former Relay for Life.
Mahaffey volunteering at a Relay for Life Bake Sale in 2013.
Lexi Mahaffey (center, top) at the 2013 Relay for Life.