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Stayin’ Alive Divas to raise money for American Cancer Society, teach about screenings


By Forrest Sanders

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    PORTLAND, Tennessee (WTVF) — Catching attention about things as important as health screenings isn’t always easy. Five middle Tennessee women are doing just that.

They’re not interested in being quiet and low-key. They’re teaching people and having fun, too.

With every great girl group, you gotta get to know all the members. Together, Rita Taylor, Becky Jennings, Jackie Wilbur, Wilma Case, and Kelly Short are the Stayin’ Alive Divas.

“We’re kinda all divas anyway!” laughed Becky.

They will be the first to tell you, they’re not professionals in singing and dancing.

“Not in any way shape or form,” Wilma said.

“None of us are!” Becky added.

“We’re professional amateurs,” Jackie smiled.

What they’re doing is delivering a message. In a rehearsal, the women took the stage at the Temple Theatre in Portland, singing about cancer screenings. Like so many of us, all the Stayin’ Alive Divas have had someone they love diagnosed with cancer.

“Both of my parents,” Jackie said.

“I lost my mother-in-law to melanoma in 2009,” Wilma said.

“I’ve been an oncology nurse for about 30 years,” Becky said.

“I’ve lost several family members,” added Becky. “It touches everybody.”

“No pictures of me bald,” Rita said, flipping through pictures taken from a family album. “You didn’t do it then. It was upsetting to my children to see me without a hat on or something. That to them was a symbol of I was sick.”

Rita has lived with cancer twice in her life.

“That’s with my daughter,” Rita said, showing a picture. “She had a really hard time. She didn’t want to be away from me at all. I had cancer the first time three days after I turned 30. I didn’t know one single person who’d lived through cancer, so I wanted to tell everybody, ‘look at me. I’m alive.'”

Now living cancer-free, Rita began writing these Stayin’ Alive Divas shows ten years ago.

“We’ll be wearing these!” Kelly said, holding up a pair of sparkly pants.

“And they show every bump and wrinkle in your body!” Rita added.

“And I’m sure we’re going to wear them often after this,” Becky said.

They’re now rehearsing for performances this weekend at Temple Theatre.

“Every dime that we raise goes to the American Cancer Society,” Becky explained.

Making up the audience for rehearsals was another group.

“We’re volunteer husbands!” said one of the guys. “Drafted. Volun-told.”

Well, now. They’ve gotta get in on this too, right? The husbands also jumped up on stage to rehearse a song about screenings for prostate cancer.

The idea of the show is to remind people to get cancer screenings of all kinds.

“Mammograms save lives,” Jackie said.

“If we had a lecture, no one would come,” Rita added. “If you sing and dance, they’ll come.”

Yes, there could be some mistakes, and yes, costumes can be a little PG.

“Especially for a lot of church ladies!” Becky said.

The Divas laughed as they twirled batons wearing bright pink bras over their clothes.

“It’s not everybody who can wear a bra outside of their shirt and feel okay with it,” Rita said.

“We’ve really not invited our pastors!” Becky said.

Rita explained the fun is part of the design to reach people.

“Every time she gets an idea, somebody gets a job, and you can’t tell her no!” said Jackie.

“There’s nobody like Rita,” Becky said. “She gives back.”

“There’s no way I can thank all the people who went before me and gave money for the research that saved my life, so I pay it forward,” Rita said. “I think every day, I wanna make a difference, a positive difference every day.”

The Stayin’ Alive Divas shows are this Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Temple Theatre in Portland. It’s $25 cash or check at the door. You can make out checks directly to the American Cancer Society.

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