Desoto County News

Light Up The Lake shines hope in the cancer fight

Photo: Luminaries light of the shore of the lake at Southaven’s Central Park Saturday, March 25 for DeSoto Hope’s Light Up The Lake. (Courtesy photo)

About 700 luminaries, beacons of hope with light, lined the lake at Southaven’s Central Park Saturday evening, March 25, as a visual reminder of the lives touched by cancer, either as a patient, family member, friend or loved one.  

The luminaries of Light Up The Lake, the annual event of the community cancer support group DeSoto Hope, burned bright through the dark to represent someone who is a cancer fighter, cancer survivor, or someone who valiantly fought the cancer fight but is no longer with us.  

DeSoto Hope, first started by two cancer survivors about three years ago, reaches out to DeSoto County cancer patients, primarily with Hope Baskets. Ashleigh Parker with DeSoto Hope said the baskets show the cancer patient that there’s a community ready to support them.

“I just think that cancer touches everybody,” Parker said. “Everybody knows somebody who has been affected by cancer. This helps bring awareness, but it also just helps people remember their fight.”

Parker said the luminaries are purchased by family or friends and loved ones of cancer fighters. “They’re either to honor them or to remember them,” Parker explained. “We will have people who are in active treatment. We will have people who are survivors, we’ll have people who are cured, and we’ll have people grieving and they want to remember their loved one.”

Light Up The Lake is a walk-through or drive-through event. You can drive through and view the lanterns from a distance with each one shimmering their lights on the water.   

But the real impact comes when you leave your vehicle and start walking through the rows of lanterns and start reading the names, either in honor of, or in memory of, someone who took cancer on with all they had.  

The community of luminaries also represents the community of support DeSoto Hope seeks to provide. Parker feels it’s important to have that support when you are battling the disease.  

“I think that cancer is very isolating and is an evil that keeps trying to keep you alone and isolated, pulling you away from people,” Parker said. “When you have something like this, people who have had cancer or haven’t had cancer get out here it becomes such a meaningful event that it allows people to realize that they are not alone.”

More than symbolic, Light Up The Lake is one of the two major fundraisers for the non-profit DeSoto Hope, which Parker says supports the main outreach item, the Hope Baskets.  

“The proceeds that we make from this will be used to buy supplies for our baskets and other support that we get for cancer survivors,” Parker explained. “We’d love to start doing support groups and some things like that, too.  We’ve done over 900 baskets at this point, since we started in 2020.”

Parker, of Olive Branch, and Tracy Gallagher, of Southaven, began DeSoto Hope as they were winning their own personal battles with cancer. 

Parker was declared in remission from Stage 4 colorectal cancer in 2020, cancer that had spread to lymph nodes and liver. Her battle has been fought with chemotherapy, radiation and several major surgeries.  

Gallagher was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and her battle was fought with a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and hysterectomy.  Together they determined the need was there for cancer patients to know they were not alone in their own battles, which led to the start of DeSoto Hope.  

DeSoto Hope holds Light Up The Lake and a Night of Hope dinner event and program to raise funds for its cancer support and also appreciates any donations people may offer to back its efforts.  

Visit the website to learn more about DeSoto Hope.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *