Story by JOYANNA LOVE
Relay For Life Queens are told very early on in their reign that this pageant’s queens are “working queens.”
The work includes events both local and out of town to spread awareness, raise funds and help those struggling with cancer.
At the 2019 pageant, Carlee Desmond became the next Miss Relay For Life and was ready to begin giving back.
“My sister had been the young miss, and I saw what all she got to do with the organization and going and seeing all of the cancer patients — I just wanted to participate in that and give my thanks to everyone who helps out with the Relay For Life,” Desmond said.
Another piece of her motivation to compete for the crown and a spot on this fundraising, traveling support team was memories of her grandmother.
Desmond said her nanny Ruth Crammore had skin cancer and passed away in 2015.
This year was Desmond’s first time competing in the Miss category, having previously competed in the Junior Miss category.
On the night of the pageant, Desmond was “very excited” when she was announced as the winner.
“I had not competed in a pageant in a year and a half and talking onstage had me a little nervous,” Desmond said. “I was excited to hear I had won, so that I could participate in all of the (American) Cancer Society fundraisers.”
Her onstage presentation dealt with explaining what the American Cancer Society was, how it got started and where the money goes.
During her reign, Desmond has visited cancer patients and participated in raising funds for childhood cancer research.
“It’s not about the crown on your head … it is about raising money for the people and for research,” Desmond said.
The queens also participated in story time at the Jemison Library.
She said she has enjoyed the opportunity to give back.
“Seeing all the little girls look up to me cause I have a crown, and I like them coming up and asking me questions about it,” Desmond said.
During events, Desmond tells people about the American Cancer Society and what it does to raise money to “help cancer patients and their families.”
“If a child needs a wig and they can’t afford it, then the American Cancer Society will help them pay for that wig or any other treatments that they need,” Desmond said.
She said she helps those she meets know what they are donating to, if they donate to Relay For Life.
Desmond is a senior at Chilton County High School. She plans on attending Jefferson State Community College and becoming a vet technician.
“For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in helping animals,” Desmond said. “I have always just brought them in and nursed them back to health.”
Desmond said the experience has “shown me how thankful I am that all of my family is healthy — and I’m healthy, and I don’t have to go through all of this. I’ve learned to be extra nice toward people because you never know what people are going through. You always help people no matter what, and that’s something that will always stick with me.”
She said the experience has also shown her just how many people are dealing with cancer.
Desmond said she was grateful to everyone who made the pageant and Relay For Life possible.
The remaining time of her reign will include visiting cancer patients at Hope Lodge again, local Christmas events and a cancer survivor’s dinner.
The Relay For Life pageant is an annual fundraiser held by the West End Baptist Church Relay For Life team.