By PETER KASPARI
Inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility spent most of their day Tuesday raising money and awareness for cancer research.
The fourth annual Insider's Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, allowed the inmates to spend their day learning about cancer awareness and prevention, as well as walking to raise money for research.
Inmates also got the chance to hear a presentation from Jeanna Jones, who was part of a group that held a Relay for Life walk at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Jones said she got involved in the mountaintop walk after being approached by Dr. Richard Deming, who now serves as the medical director of Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines.
"He told me he was going to Africa and asked if I was interested in going as a caregiver," Jones said. "I was thrilled to be asked to go on this journey."
Jones told the inmates about her experiences over the 10 days traveling to the top of the mountain. She said even though once everybody that made it to the top was suffering from altitude sickness, they all had a moving experience.
"It was an honor to go," she said.
She also spoke to the inmates about the importance of taking care of themselves and keeping healthy.
"Be proactive and be an advocate," she said. "Take good care of yourselves."
Inmate Blake Privitt recorded her presentation on video to share with other inmates.
"It was a last-minute decision for me, but I'm glad I went," he said. "I've seen a lot of people out today learning, which is a good thing."
Inmate Scott Hall said the Insider's Relay for Life offers those inside the prison a chance to prove they've changed.
"As criminals we have given a bad name for ourselves," he said. "Every one of us needs to come out of here and show that we do have hearts and care."
Hall told Jones he would work among the other inmates to promote preventative care and healthy lifestyles.
"I'm working on a more positive attitude towards people," he said. "It's all about reaching out."
Jones said she had never spoken to an inmate group before Tuesday.
"They were all really listening," she said. "They were engaged in the story and they seemed interested in wanting to hear."
Volunteer Nancy McCard, who is also a retired FDCF employee, said even if only one inmate changes his lifestyle, it's worth it.
"Once you can reach somebody on a deeper level, you've succeeded," she said. "That's really important to pass those messages along."