Third Annual Drae Day remembers life, hopes to save other lives
Dean Poling The Valdosta Daily Times
For the past two years, Drae Day has been about raising cancer awareness, collecting blood donations, and celebrating and commemorating the life and passing of 28-year-old Undrae B. "Drae" Thomas.
This year, his mother, Barbara Thomas, and his cousin, Serwa Collins, want to emphasize the importance of blood donations to saving cancer patients' lives, and through a raffle raise money for the Partnership Cancer Fund, a supplemental monetary fund that helps Lowndes County cancer patients and their families pay for expenses such as travel, related medications and other costs that arise from cancer treatments.
"Cancer patients are the No. 1 recipients of blood donations," Collins says. "... In the 10-15 minutes it takes to give blood, you can give three people a lifetime."
Drae Thomas' family understands the importance of both the Partnership Cancer Fund and blood donations.
In December 2010, he was diagnosed with cancer. He had received the hereditary sickle cell trait from his father, Eubia Undrae Walker, who died in 1998 at the age of 36. Renal medullary carcinoma is most common in sickle cell patients, and that was Drae Thomas' diagnosis, along with this particular cancer's insidious characteristics: aggressive, difficult to treat, often already spread and spreading upon diagnosis.
Drae Thomas lived only four months past his diagnosis. He died April 7, 2011.
Barbara Thomas wanted something to commemorate her son, to remember his life. The life of a young man who had been healthy and athletic, who had played Wildcat football in high school.
"He was so young and seemed so healthy," Mrs. Thomas says. "You never know. You just don't know."
She developed Drae Day to fall near her son's Nov. 12 birthday. She held the first one in fall 2011, and the second Drae Day last year. What would have been his 31st birthday is this Tuesday; the Third Annual Drae Day is scheduled for this Saturday, Nov. 16.
Drae Day emphasizes the giving and the remembering but it is also a day for celebrating life. The event includes food and refreshments from Pepsi, Sam's BBQ, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's. Collins hosts a day of speakers and entertainment: DJ Klarc Sheppard of V96; speaker Bishop Wade S. McCrae of Union Cathedral; solos by Kelsie Davis & Lydia Tooley; dedication song by Calione and Deva Nun; dedication by SkyScraper; Valdosta State University's Element X Models; poetry by Valdosta State University's Media Art Genuises; step show by SIGMAS fraternity.
Red Cross recruiter Micah Holliman and Dre Thomas' best friend, Cedric D. Breeden, work in every facet of the event. The event board is chaired by Collins, with members Nick "Big Nick" Harden, Barbara Thomas, Sabrina Adams and Rashida Clayborn-Kimmons, VSU's MAG.
"We want to continue the legacy of Undrae," Collins says. "If you do have cancer or have survived cancer, come out and celebrate life. This is in memory of and for those who are fighting cancer. Something that is positive and not negative for the community."
Third Annual Drae Day is scheduled for 12:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, John W. Saunders Park, River Street. Admission: Free. Raffle tickets: $5, $1, for various prizes.