Like thousands of others, I was disappointed when the brilliant, cancer-fighting Bay Area Relay For Life, originally set for early April, was postponed. Heckfire was my first thought.

In light of the stupid coronavirus, Relay officials made the right decision. Bless them.

I was glad, however, that they only “postponed” instead of “canceled.”  A lot of folks here do tons of unselfish Relay work to smack cancer in its ugly face.

Too, the Relay is among the premier events held annually right here in Channel City. We need this event, bigtime.

How premier is it? Well, in 22 years, we (they) have raised more than $10 million. You’ll have to admit that’s a lot of shekels. WOW!

The money goes to the American Cancer Society, which hates cancer with a passion.

Not to brag (yeah, right) but our Relay is always one of the best, in terms of money raised, not only in Texas, but across the entire nation and points beyond. That’s spectacular, I’d say. Wait, spectacular doesn’t really describe what the folks here do. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is more like it, and even that doesn’t do it justice.

Last year, for example, the event brought in $481,000, good enough to finish No. 1 in Texas and No. 12 in these United States of America.

With Tri-Chairs Denise Martinez, Rick Merling, and Kimberly Dillard leading the way – with help from scores of volunteers – I’m betting the Relay will meet its 2020 goal of $505,000, coronavirus or not. The generosity in our area is spectacular. No, make that supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Lifelong friend Pat Thomas got me involved sometime near the mid-2000s when she asked … uh, when she TOLD me to report and join the large cast of volunteers. “Yes, ma’am,” I said.

Thusly, for a number of years, Wife Margie and I judged the various booths onsite at Houston Raceway Park.

But there was a bit of not-so-nice irony after Pat pushed me through the Relay door, because just a few years later (2010), I caught The Cancer myself. Ouch!

After kicking squamous cell carcinoma in the groin, I became the only volunteer/survivor with just one complete, usable human ear. But so what?

My only problem is, I no longer resemble quarterback Tom Brady. Now I look like Sen. Chuck Schumer. But so what? I’m still here, aren’t I?

Then, dang it, just recently, Pat herself became a cancer patient (I won’t use the word victim because she’s one tough cookie). She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago and is undergoing treatment.

Another bit of irony is, her husband, Gary, is a cancer survivor. He has fought leukemia since 2006. Still, he does what Pat tells him to do each year at Relay time.

Pat, by the way, was chosen as a Baytown Sun “Unsung Hero” a few years ago, primarily for her work with the Relay.

(NON-EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve known Pat and Gary for approximately a hundred years, having grown up with them in Sweeny. Fortunately for Baytown, we all ended up being proud Goose Creekers.)

Speaking from a personal standpoint, one of my most cherished memories at the Relay was the first year I “conquered” the Survivors Lap, which is one of the event’s most touching highlights. I showed my great athletic ability that 2011 night.

But what truly warmed my heart was what happened as I sped (haha) to complete the lap.

Wife Margie had joined me on the lap – lest I fall and make a fool of myself – and as we neared the finish line, we spotted a group of family members standing nearby. They were there to cheer their T-Bone (that’s me).

Among them was granddaughter Katie Erikson. As I approached her, I saw the tears in her eyes. I knew right then what Real Love looks like. I’ll always remember that moment.

And thanks to Wife Margie, I didn’t fall.

So, the Relay has been postponed. Now I’m counting the days until it’s rescheduled.

Meanwhile, a pox on your house, cancer!


Jim Finley is a retired managing editor of The Sun. He can be reached at, Attention: Jim Finley.


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(1) comment


Great column, Jim.

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