PSA walks alongside Salamone at Relay for Life


By Kristen Shepard and Kilian Bresnahan
Staff Writer and KCBY Staff Member

Coppell’s annual Relay for Life never fails as an emotional and impactful night for many cancer research survivors. But at this year’s Relay for Life, one group felt especially empowered.

At the opening ceremony, each cancer survivor present at the event was applauded and recognized for their journey as they stood on stage Relay for Life’s opening ceremony.

When Breast Cancer survivor Laura Salamone took the microphone, she identified the entire PSA academy as her caregivers and the students erupted with cheers of support and celebration.

One of the most impactful events following the opening ceremony was the Survivor lap, in which all the survivors of cancer present at the event took a celebratory first lap. PSA lined up on either side of the sidewalk and high-fived Salamone as she took the lap.

Coppell’s annual Relay for Life was flooded with a sea of purple tie-dye shirts among the crowd of over one thousand people who came out to support cancer research and awareness.

This mass of T-shirts was the Public Services Academy (PSA) who entered their second year of Relay for Life participation, an activity that has become a personal and powerful experience to each PSA member.

When Salamone was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, her colleagues and students refused to let her fight the battle alone.

“The last two years with Laura have been extremely emotional,” fellow Academy English teacher Clara Caussey said. “She is such a powerful and kind-hearted woman, we come [to Relay for Life] to honor her and celebrate life and admire those whose lives have been ended by cancer.”

Relay for Life opened on April 28 with a brief ceremony honoring the cancer survivors and caregivers present at the event. Terry Dorsey, a radio personality from 96.3 KSCS, served as the MC for the night, having overcome cancer himself.

“Watching Mrs. Salamone take the first lap was so emotional. We all did what we could to support her throughout her treatment and knowing that she has reached the point of a year cancer-free is unparalleled,” PSA coordinator Brenda Brinkman said.

Not only were the students of the PSA Academy happy to hear that Salamone had overcome her battle with cancer, they were inspired to partake in Relay for Life to support her and the race for a cure to cancer.

It seemed more than appropriate for the Public Services Academy to participate, as many of the students in the academy are on their way to pursuing a career in the healthcare field, and this experience really puts the concept of cancer and medicine into perspective.

“We are here first and foremost to support Mrs. Salamone, but I really take a lot from this event knowing that we have to find a cure for cancer,” PSA sophomore Kevin Songco said. “It’s possible that the cure for cancer will come from my generation, and we shouldn’t stop at anything until there are no more lives taken by cancer.”

Planning for the nights events started even before the school year got off to a start, as teachers and students alike were eager to begin planning for Relay for Life, even as far as nine months in advance.

One of the most popular events PSA was able to plan was the academy’s pie-throwing competition. For just $2, students had the opportunity to purchase a pie tin filled to the brim with Cool Whip to toss at the teacher of their choice. Teacher participants included Brinkman, Caussey and even Salamone.

Though it was all in good humor, students did not take the opportunity lightly, and made sure they got their money’s worth as they tossed pies at their favorite, or least favorite, PSA teachers.

“Taking a pie for this cause felt amazing. I mean, getting hit in the face with a pie didn’t actually feel pleasant, but knowing that we were doing something that really inspired students to donate to this cause was an awesome feeling,” Caussey said.

The fun carried on throughout the night, as students and teachers took shifts walking around Wagon Wheel Park, signifying the endurance needed to make the journey to overcome cancer.

The event kicked off with celebrations, representing the happiness of life without cancer. However, the struggle and sadness that come with a cancer diagnosis was paralleled as the sunset and nighttime approached. Despite the arrival of night, the dedicated relay participants kept walking, symbolizing the endurance with which cancer survivors live life. As the sun rose in the morning, and the event came to a close, relay participants celebrated what represented overcoming cancer.

Though many of the PSA members will never experience a cancerous diagnosis themselves, through Relay for Life, they felt just how impactful one diagnosis can be.

“If I learned anything from Relay for Life, its that you have to keep walking” sophomore Sarah Robinson said. “And we plan to keep walking as an academy until the cure is found. That’s my favorite part about Relay for Life, being surrounded by so many people who aren’t going to give up. We can find a cure.”