Relay For Life teams to start setting up Thursday night

Annual American Cancer Society fund-raiser begins with surivors lap at 7 p.m. Friday

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

May 7, 2008 - A year's worth of planning will culminate at 7 p.m. Friday on the Sulphur Spring Middle School track with the opening ceremonies for Hopkins County Relay For Life, the premier local fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society.

The most important part of the night is to honor local cancer survivors, Hopkins County Relay For Life Committee members stated Wednesday morning.

In accord with that goal, RFL organizers will host a special dinner Friday night from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at League Street Church of Christ honoring local cancer survivors.

Cancer survivors and anyone else needing to pick up RFL T-shirts may do so from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the track. Participations forms will also be available for them to fill out.

Following Friday's dinner, cancer survivors can take a bus provided for them to the track in time for the opening ceremony.

Following the opening ceremony will be the always emotionally moving cancer survivors lap, in which as many local cancer survivors as can attend gather and make the trek around the track with their families, some aided by caregivers. Monty Tipps and Mainstreet band will perform during the survivors lap, which generally takes off around 7:15 p.m.

Survivors in need of additional information may contact Debra Berry at 03-885-3267 or Cindy Smith at 903-945-5050.

After the survivors walk, the teams will take over, with one person from each team slated to be on the track at all times throughout the 12-hour fund-raiser. This year, 37 teams have registered, with each team challenging its members with raising a minimum of $100 each. Team members who have raised at least $1,000 will be easy to spot -- they will be presented with special green T-shirts proclaiming "I Raised $1000 for RFL."

While the walk begins Friday evening, teams can begin setting up their campsites on Thursday. Someone will be at SSMS track at all times beginning Thursday evening so that teams can get their sites prepared in advance.

Team members should note, however, that no vehicles will be allowed to park inside the track or beyond the gates. RFL organizers will have several John Deere Gators to help teams get their supplies and gear to the campsites.

Also, Relay participants are asked to keep in mind that the property belongs to the Sulphur Springs school district and to be respectful of that, using care not to tear up the grass, RFL team committee chair Judy Worley said Wednesday morning.

Also, anyone who wants to enter a team but has yet to do so still has time. They should contact Judy Worley at 903-439-3144 or 903-439-8449, or they can sign up as late as Friday by contacting Worley or organizers at the truck. Organizers still have some extra shirts for late entering teams, which may be adults or youth, families, groups, churches, etc..

Another emotional event comes with the lighting of the luminaries and the memory lap, which begin around 9 p.m. Friday. Quite a few luminaries are still available for purchase in memory or honor of loved ones and friends who have died from, are battling or have battled cancer. Everyone present will be asked to participate in the memory lap, when taper candles are carried around the track in memory of someone who has died from cancer. They will walk alongside the luminaries, which are glowing, candlelit bags lining the track symbolizing "a light of hope in the battle for a cure." Luminaries are available by contacting any Relay team or luminary chair Susan Neal at 903-439-3144 or 903-439-7070.

Also, pictures in memory or honor of those affected by cancer may still be donated through Thursdayat Pilgrim Bank (formerly Community Bank), 1404 South Broadway St. or e-mailed to tigertdt@hotmail.com. The photos will be shown in a special video during the luminary ceremony. When submitting photos, the name of the person being remembered or honored should be put on the back of the picture. For those submitting them at the bank, please provide an envelope with the name and address of the person submitting the picture to have it returned.

The "Men Dressed As Women" contest, always a crowd favorite, returns this year and is slated to start at 11 p.m. Friday.

The Relay also features entertainment by local performers through the entire 12 hours of the fundraiser. Monty Tipps will be entertaining until about midnight, and other local favorites are also slated thorughout the event.

At midnight will be the usual pizza party. Those participating in or planning to attend the Relay are encouraged to purchase food armbands, which are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Armbands will be sold on the track during the Relay.

Armbands are required to eat any of the offerings, which includes pizza, stew cooked by Bobby Neal and Shem Ray with Kiwanis Club, and chili made by Joe and Lisa Hooten. Armbands entitle the wearers to all they can eat of the Relay's food offerings throughout the entirety of the walk, including the donut breakfast. There is one exception: Cancer survivors, who "have already paid enough," will be entitled to enjoy the vittles. They need only to wear the T-shirts identying them as cancer survivors.

The Relay will begin winding down around sunrise Saturday, with the closing ceremony commencing at 7 a.m.

The entire community is encouraged to attend RFL to show their support for the cause and ACS. The goal of this year's RFL is to raise $152,100 to support the American Cancer Society and its programs in Hopkins County. (That amount includes 6.3 percent allocated for operating costs.)

Event organizers would also like to sell 1,000 luminaries and hope to have 300 survivors, 35 adult and 15 youth teams participating, if possible.

For more information about this year's Relay For Life, contact Cindy Smith at 903-945-5050 or Mynder Nash at 903-885-6633.

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