Desoto County News

DeSoto Hope set to Light Up The Lake

Photo: Lighted lanterns line the shoreline of the Central Park lake during last year’s Light Up The Lake for DeSoto Hope. (Bob Bakken/

Cancer can be a cruel killer, taking the lives of 6,500 Mississippians each year, as the second-leading cause of death in the Magnolia State.

Cancer takes lives, but it also leaves behind loved ones who want to remember them and honor their fight. At the same time, there are also those who have fought cancer and survived to continue living and contributing to their circle of influence.  

It is for all of these people the cancer community support and awareness effort DeSoto Hope will again “Light Up The Lake” on Saturday, April 6 alongside the lakeshore at Southaven’s Central Park.  Hours are from 6:30-8:30 p.m. for people to drive through or walk through the park and see the lantern luminaries, all identifying a cancer survivor or fighter, or in memory of a cancer victim.  

Tracy Gallagher and Ashleigh Parker are the cancer survivors who began DeSoto Hope in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.  Gallagher said Light Up The Lake is a way for people to either honor those who have had cancer, or those who passed away to be memorialized. The first Light Up The Lake was a drive-through activity only because of the pandemic, but Gallagher said many people savor being able to walk through and read the different names on the lanterns. 

“I think that’s really encouraging to people who have fought cancer and it’s also a sweet time for people to come and see their loved ones’ names on the lantern who may no longer be here,” Gallagher said.  

Lanterns may be purchased through the DeSoto Hope website or the Light Up The Lake Facebook page at $20 each. 

Parker points out the lanterns serve a dual purpose, as a show of honor and memorializing, but also a means to provide cancer fighters with Hope Baskets. 

“We provide Hope Baskets for newly diagnosed cancer patients in DeSoto County,” Parker said. “To help fund those basket supplies and the other things that we do to support cancer survivors, we needed some fundraisers. We usually have about 700 lanterns out around the lake. I’m sure we’ll have at least 700 out there again this year.”

Parker added each Hope Basket, containing a variety of items, runs about $160 each to produce for those who request them.  

DeSoto Hope has added in the past year a new program that helps fund travel expenses to cancer facilities for DeSoto County patients seeking treatment. 

“A lot of times if they want to get a second opinion or whatever we’ll help them with a travel grant to help,” Parker said. 

Seeing the lanterns and knowing what they mean can nudge a lot of emotions, Gallagher said.  

“I did not realize what an emotional time this would be, just to see the lights and lanterns and to see how much cancer affects everyone,” Gallagher said. “A lot of times you think you’re the only one going through it and it’s so special to be out there and to see all the other people that have gone through it, too.”

Parker says she has a unique perspective, being a cancer survivor and the daughter of a mother who succumbed to cancer.  

“There’ll be lanterns out there in memory of my mom and then there’ll be lanterns out there in honor of me,” Parker said. “So I kind of see it from the family perspective, and then I see it from the survivor perspective. It’s very touching and it’s just such good support from the community.”

The number of Hope Baskets that have been provided since DeSoto Hope started counting in 2021 is approaching 1,500. It is Light Up The Lake and the annual A Night of Hope event that have become two of the main fundraising events to allow DeSoto Hope to fill those baskets.  

Volunteers are needed to assist the placement of the lanterns and other needs ahead of the April 6 event and a volunteer form is found on the DeSoto Hope website.