LOGANSPORT — Laric “Tank” Wallace might have only spent five short years in this world, but the child had a smile that brought many others to smile and the eagerness to go to school that was unlike any his mother, Leonda, had seen.
“He always had a smile on his face,” she said. “He was ready to go to school at the age of 1.”
In February 2011, however, Laric began to complain of his head hurting constantly and he couldn’t keep much of his food down.
Doctors initially diagnosed him with the flu, but his mother knew something more was wrong. His equilibrium was off, and Leonda was insistent that physicians perform a CT scan.
On Feb. 28, 2011, Tank was diagnosed with cancer.
The 5-year-old will be among the hundreds honored for their courage in their battle with cancer this weekend during the 16th annual Relay for Life of Cass County.
More than 200 people are signed up, representing more than 30 teams for the relay, which begins Friday evening at the Pioneer High School track and field in Royal Center. This year’s theme is “Rainbow of Cancer.”
Money raised at the event will help fund cancer research, education programs and local patient services to support the American Cancer Society's efforts to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays by helping people stay well, by helping people get well and by finding cures and fighting back, according to a press release issued by the organization.
Promotions coordinator Debbie Birt is in her third year of being involved with the event. Birt said she lost a friend and a family member to cancer, and has some friends who are survivors.
She said the relay is little more than halfway to its goal of $72,000.
Past Relays have had a strong impact on those involved, she said, and this year should be no different.
“I think it’s an overwhelming experience,” Birt said. “The luminaria ceremony is probably the favorite part of the evening just because it’s honoring and remembering those who have lost or who are still fighting.
“It’s a very touching and moving experience.”
Wallace admits she didn’t know much about Relay for Life before her family experienced cancer.
She recalled months of radiation, seizures and chemotherapy and countless weeks of 240-mile round-trip days to Bloomington. By October, Laric couldn’t open his eyes and they weren’t responding to light. He spent endless days in the intensive care unit at Riley Hospital for Children.
In mid-November, the Wallaces were told their son wouldn’t make it.
There was water building up around his lungs and they had the option to keep him on a ventilator or take him home and keep him comfortable with pain medication. The Wallaces chose the latter.
On the morning of Nov. 20, after a sleepless night, the Wallaces were faced with Laric no longer breathing. Leonda’s husband, Steve, revived his son twice and did his best to keep blood flowing in the boy’s body.
“My husband held our son and said, ‘Baby boy. It’s going to hurt daddy the most, but it’s going to hurt all of us,’” she said. “‘If Grandpa Wallace says it’s OK for you to come live with him up in Heaven, then I guess I’m OK with it.’ Laric, for the first time, opened up his eyes, looked up at my husband, his father, and took his last breath at 5:30.”
Together with family members, the Wallaces will walk proudly this weekend as “Team Tank” reached its goal of $300.
Leonda Wallace says she is doing relay partly for her son and partly to raise awareness of the organization.
“I wish he could be a survivor of it,” she said. “I just want to let everybody know what relay is all about.”
• Jason M. Rodriguez is associate editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org