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Bags packed: Avon volunteer headed to D.C. for American Cancer Society luminary ceremony

As part of the ACS event, Dr. Robert Sexton was asked to sell and bring luminary bags that represent Hendricks County families touched by cancer. Each one is personalized and decorated with memorial tribute and messages.

By Lindsay Doty

Packed for a flight to the nation’s Capitol, Dr. Robert Sexton carries with him more than two dozen personalized luminary bags dedicated to Hendricks County cancer survivors and those who have lost their lives to the disease.

They come decorated with rainbows, scribbled children’s handwriting and memorial tributes.

“One says, ‘Granny, we are thinking of you.’ It touches your heart,” Sexton said.

The retired Avon oral surgeon is taking the bags with him to D.C. as part of the upcoming American Cancer Society Lights of Hope ceremony (Sept. 10) where more than 30,000 luminary bags will illuminate the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

The event will raise awareness in the fight against cancer.

“I’m flattered and humbled they asked me to do this,” the 72-year-old said.

Sexton was selected by the American Cancer Society because of his volunteer work with Road to Recovery, a program that provides transportation for patients who do not have a ride or are unable to drive themselves.

“They appreciate it. A lot of times, they have no other way to go to the doctor,” Sexton said.

Several times a week, he serves as their chauffeur driving patients to and from their various appointments and chemotherapy sessions.

He started the volunteer gig seven years ago at a friend’s request and hasn’t slowed down, squeezing it in between Avon Chamber of Commerce meetings, community boards and the occasional golf game.

He often has repeat riders and gets to know their personalities, backgrounds and prognosis.

“Some want to chat on the drive and others don’t. I wait for them if they want to talk about their cancer,” he said. “It’s an eye-opener. A lot of them are going through a really tough time and have a lot on their mind.”

As part of his D.C journey, Sexton will join other volunteers for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Leadership Summit and Lobby Day to discuss cancer-related legislation and ways to get lawmakers to help fight the disease.

“We are advocates for cancer patients and we bring volunteers to share their story and cancer connection and explain why we need to pass certain pieces of legislation,” ACS CAN Indiana Grassroots Manager Grace Miller said. “Cancer pretty much affects every single person in the world and needs to be a top priority.”

Sexton is looking forward to meeting other volunteers on his trip, sightseeing (he hasn’t been to D.C since he was a kid), and observing how the government works. He feels humbled to help fight a disease that touches so many.

“When you are driving someone with cancer, it’s by the grace of God and puts you back into reality a bit that you could be the one being driven six months from now,” he said. “You think about what you want to do with your life.”

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