Cancer hits close to home for Carillon

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
Suzanne Rose is a survivor. Hulene Woody, Traci Sparks, Enga Shaver and Virginia Basinger are too. They aren’t the only ones. Over the last 18 months, Carillon Assisted Living in Salisbury has seen its share of employees, residents and friends of the center hit hard with cancer.
Rose estimates there are currently two residents with cancer, 20 who are survivors and at least eight who moved in shortly after losing a spouse to cancer. In addition, at least 10 have lost children to cancer and five that she knows of who have immediate family members currently undergoing treatment for cancer.
The numbers are just as high among the staff. Four have been diagnosed – including Rose – and two have had cancer “scares,” going through months of testing to rule out a cancer diagnosis.
“At a recent staff meeting, those present (there were close to 60) were asked if they had lost an immediate family member to cancer or if they were survivors,” said Rose. “Every single person in the room raised their hand, and nearly half of those had experienced a loss in the past two years.”
And so the stories go. Rose can pinpoint an employee, resident or family member of an employee or resident who has undergone or is currently undergoing treatment.
It’s those stories that prompted Rose and the staff of Carillon to combine their cancer fundraiser – Duck Days, where anyone can come to the center and participate in a duck race – with Relay for Life.
“We’ve never, other than piggybacking off of Relay, had any involvement with it,” said Rose. That changes this year. “I thought it was very important, given everything that’s gone on with us, to be involved.”
Rose and a group from Carillon will take ducks to Relay for Life, offering them in exchange for donations. The donor can then bring the duck to Carillon on Saturday for the duck races. Ducks are raced in guttering cut in half and filled with water. Participants shoot the ducks with water guns and race them to the finish line.
In addition to the Relay for Life event, ducks will also be available at Carillon on Saturday for their Duck Days, which will include a yard sale and arts and crafts festival from 8 a.m. to noon.
Rose and the staff at Carillon have only raised a few hundred dollars for the American Cancer Society with the Duck Days events in the past, mainly because they’ve just wanted to make the event about awareness. They only ask for donations at the end of the day from vendors and yard sale participants, never setting a specified amount to participate. And ducks generally go for around $4 per duck on the day of the races.
This year though, Rose said that’s changed. The group has already raised more than any other Duck Days in the past and the event doesn’t even start until tonight.
“I said, we need to step it up,” said Rose. One of the reasons she decided to push Relay for Life this year was because of Janie Speaks, a former resident who passed away of cancer in April 2010.
“She was probably the most humble person I ever met,” said Rose, remembering her dear friend and resident of the center. Speaks had battled breast cancer, but “you’d never know until the day she died she was battling it.”
Rose and the other employees of Carillon all agree that it was Speaks who taught them much about courage, and fighting a battle like cancer. “I think about her every day.”
“People talk about the miracle of birth,” said Rose. “There’s so much beauty in the miracle of death.”
Relay for Life begins tonight at 5 p.m. at the Rowan County Fairgrounds. With more than $180,000 raised so far, and 121 teams participating, Rose and the rest of the gang at Carillon expect this to be the best year ever. They hope people will come from Relay on Saturday morning and go over to Carillon and check out the Duck Days there.
Gates open at 5 p.m. on Friday and events last through Saturday morning. Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society, celebrates cancer survivors and remembers those who have been claimed by the disease.
There will be food, games and entertainment. Admission is free, but organizers ask people attending to donate canned food items to go to China Grove Mission. Teams will also be accepting donations during the event.
There will be traffic issues surrounding the event this evening, including:
• Julian Road will be completely closed at the Rowan County Fairgrounds, probably around 3 p.m. — depending on when the traffic volume picks up. All traffic coming in the road will have to turn into a parking lot. Everything coming from I-85 will turn to the right toward the recycling center-animal shelter area.
• All the parking on the fairgrounds site will be for survivors and handicapped, approximately 150-200 spaces. Having placards displayed will help things go faster. It will be easier for most coming from the I-85 side.
• Guest speakers will have a designated area in the fenced-in area at the cattle barn entrance and should enter from the Old Concord Road area if possible.
• All other traffic coming in from Old Concord Road will have to turn left into the parking area. There will be a limited number of survivor and handicapped parking on that side.
• There is also parking at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College; city buses will be shuttling to the fairgrounds.
• Anyone wanting to drop off equipment etc., can start doing so today. Those who need to drop off items on Friday are asked to be outside the fence by 4:30 p.m. due to foot traffic picking up. There will also be limited parking behind the barns for those who need to park on the inside.
For more information on Relay for Life, visit