After months of preparation, dozens of team events and innumerable volunteer hours, it’s finally here – Hopkins County Relay For Life gets under way Friday at 7 p.m. at Sulphur Springs Middle School Track.
But, before you head out for the track, HCRFL Committee members have a few reminders for teams as well as information on fun events the community won’t want to miss and special activities just for cancer survivors, their families and caretakers.
First off, the American Cancer Society extends an invitation to cancer survivors and their guests to the 10th annual survivors’ celebration dinner beginning at 5 p.m. Friday and continuing until 6:30 p.m. This year, instead of at a local church, the event will be hosted on the track. Plain & Fancy Sandwich Shop will be catering the meal.
“This year we are trying to make things easier for our survivors by having a light dinner at the track prior to the Relay,” said Joyce Davis, Relay survivors chairperson. “We will have reserved parking on the west side of the field and a large tent set up in the middle of the field with seats and tables for the meal. In case of rain, we will move the meal back to League Street Church of Christ which has been so welcoming for this event in the past. We will make that decision on the day of Relay and announce any changes on the local radio stations.”
“We are very excited about this year’s Cancer Survivors’ Dinner,” said Tony Aguilar, Relay chairperson. “We are looking forward to paying tribute to the tremendous personal journey that cancer survivors have been on. Every survivor is invited, whether they were diagnosed yesterday or 30 years ago.”
“At Relay and at the survivors’ dinner, everyone understand the challenges that cancer survivors have overcome, and there is peace of mind knowing that together we can face the challenges ahead,” said Mynder Nash, survivors co-chair.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a whopping 376 cancer survivors had pre-registered for Relay, according to Aguilar. Any cancer survivor who has not registered but would like to take part in the survivors dinner and events is urged to contact contact Joyce Davis at 903-348-0716 or Mynder Nash at 903-348-7221 Thursday.
“While we can’t guarantee T-shirts for those who register the day of Relay, we want to make sure that any cancer survivor that wants to take part in this event has the opportunity,” said Joyce Davis.
The ceremonial first lap of RFL each year is made by cancer survivors, their families and caregivers. This is scheduled at approximately 7:15 p.m. Friday; it immediately follows the opening announcement, posting of colors, national anthem and invocation. Anyone who isn’t familiar with the survivors’ and caregivers’ lap is encouraged to do so; not only in support and honor of those who have battled, are facing or will be diagnosed with cancer, but also to see just how large an impact cancer has had on this community. It’s generally a very moving experience.
There will also be a luminaria ceremony/memory lap as well as a video slideshow composed of photos submitted of individuals who have faced cancer played throughout the overnight event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. The luminaria ceremony and memory lap is slated to begin at 9 p.m. Friday, with the candles lit just after dark to shine a light of hope around the track throughout the night.
Luminarias may be purchased at Relay in honor or memory of loved ones for $5. This year, Relay For Life of Hopkins County is using the luminaria ceremony to collect canned food for county agencies. Anyone who would like to donate canned food items for this outreach project is encouraged to bring the nonperishables to Relay or drop them off at the track Thursday evening. Relay team members (there were 42 teams registered as of Wednesday afternoon) are asked to bring six canned items each.
Relay will also feature live entertainment throughout the night, beginning at 7:45 p.m., such as dance groups, church praise groups and music by Mitch Griggs and Bailey Waggoner. There will even be opportunities to dance early on, and karaoke from 2 a.m. to 5 p.m. to keep the fun going during those lagging early morning hours. Opening for the night’s featured entertainers will be Chad Kirkpatrick and Lauren at 10:15 p.m. Headliners Dale Riley and then Last Train South Band are slated to take the stage at 11:30 p.m. Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday.
Another fun event that will once again be held is the Queen of Relay contest, in which men voluntarily are “dolled up” in fancy dresses for an 11 p.m. “pageant.”
“The Queen of Relay contest is a fun way to raise money for the fight against cancer,” said Pamela Clayton, Entertainment Chairperson. “Men in the community participate in queen events that include an evening gown and a talent competition. The winner is chosen by a panel of judges.”
For information about the Queen of Relay contest, call Pam Clayton at 214-803-8930.
All teams have donated items for a silent auction to continue the team fundraising efforts throughout the event. The silent auction will close at 11 p.m., so be sure to go by before that time to put in a bid.
Many teams will be selling items at their campsites throughout the evening to raise team money. Bring a little extra cash for raffle tickets, snacks, games, etc.
And make no mistake, there will be plenty of food during Relay. Food bracelets will be on sale for those attending the Relay. Bracelets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. For those dedicated team members who last the night through, there will be pizza and nachos at the food tent at midnight and donuts for an early breakfast at 5 a.m. Saturday.
The event will start wrapping up with a morning devotional at 6 a.m. Saturday, followed at 6:15 a.m. by the closing ceremony, complete with raffle drawings and of course, the lap to be completed by all participants and survivors present.
And as a final reminder, Relay Committee member Jennifer Philo reminds: “One last thing, WE WALK! Unless there is a threat of extreme weather or lightning WE WILL WALK!”
Not physically able to make the continuous trek? That’s OK, you can still participate too.
“For those who can’t walk we encourage them to ‘ROCK’ the Relay. We will have rocking chairs located in the Survivors Section (south end zone) for those who can’t physically walk laps,” she said.
All proceeds from Relay for Life benefit the American Cancer Society, the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service.
The goal for this year’s Relay For Life is to raise $125,000 for ACS. As of Wednesday, about half of that amount had been collect, which is about normal for a few days before the event. That’s why the community’s generous support and participation the night of RFL is so important, Aguilar noted.
— Jennifer Philo, RFL Committee member compiled and submitted considerable information for this article.
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