By CHERIL VERNON
Forty-one Relay for Life teams will gather as a community to fight back against cancer, while honoring cancer survivors and remembering those who have battled cancer during the 2013 Anderson County Relay for Life event on Friday, May 3.
The 12-hour event will kick off at 7 p.m. with opening ceremonies at Westwood Independent School District’s Panther Stadium. Proceeds from Relay for Life go the American Cancer Society.
“We welcome all cancer survivors to come out, as well as their caregivers and the whole community,” Anderson County Relay for Life event chair Jennifer Snyder said Friday. “During our opening ceremonies, we hand out medals to the survivors and then the survivors take the first lap around the track. We want the community to be there to cheer them on.”
The second lap is for survivors and their caregivers.
“We have over 100 survivors usually participating and when they are walking in their purple Relay for Life shirts, it’s like a sea of purple. It’s our way of thanking them and honoring them as a survivor,” Snyder said.
On the third lap, all of the Relay for Life teams take a lap together.
“This is our way of recognizing all of those who have worked so hard to make this event possible. This is their special time to be out on the track,” Snyder said.
The fourth lap is new this year — specifically for the Armed Forces and veterans.
“This is for any current or former military — we want to honor them, because without them, we wouldn’t have the freedom to do what we are doing today,” Snyder said.
The fifth lap will be a silent lap for the cities of Boston, Mass. and West Texas — cities that have both faced tragedies recently.
“This is our way of showing support for both of these cities,” Snyder said.
At 8 p.m., team members will liven up the event with a “Boots and Bra” lap.
“Team members decorated rain boots and will be wearing bras over their clothes. It should be hilarious,” Snyder said.
While individual members are encouraged to continue making laps around the track throughout the night, various events are held around the field.
“It is a family-type of event with a kids area, food and lots of fun things going on throughout the night,” Snyder explained.
At 9 p.m., a solemn luminaria ceremony is held — where cancer survivors and those who have passed away from cancer are remembered.
“The luminaria ceremony is honestly one of the most moving ceremonies, there’s not a dry eye on the field,” Snyder said. “We will be reading the names of the survivors and names of those we are honoring in memory.”
Luminarias can be purchased for a minimum $5 donation in honor and/or in memory of someone up until 7 p.m. the night of the relay. Luminarias can be purchased from Relay for Life team members or by contacting Relay for Life committee member Kim Rhoads via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Snyder at 903-729-6882.
At 10 p.m., the popular and light-hearted Ms. Relay pageant will be held featuring men representing a particular team.
“This is the funniest pageant you have ever seen — grown men dressing in women’s clothing raising money for a cure to cancer,” Snyder said. “It’s so funny to see these men turn into divas at the drop of the hat.”
A silent auction featuring various gift baskets and items donated from teas will start at 6:30 p.m. and end at midnight.
The American Cancer Society describes Relay for Life as a fun-filled overnight event that celebrates survivorship and raises money for research and programs of the American Cancer Society. Relay participants are able to celebrate those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and empower individuals and communities to fight back against a disease that takes so much.
“Relay is truly an experience if you have never been. If you come for first time, you will forever come back because it’s so much fun. It’s eye opening to see all of those people set up for one cause,” Snyder said. “I know many people think it’s just a relay race, but it’s not. It’s our community being behind cancer survivors and behind families that have lost somebody to cancer.”
During the night, teams will hold various fund-raisers from selling food, to offering games, selling items ranging from bracelets, light-up toys, t-shirts, plants and trees and more.
While the general public coming to cheer on the survivors and participate in the luminaria ceremony, might leave around 10 or 11 p.m., the teams stay throughout the night until 7 a.m. Saturday, May 4.
Other activities held during the night for the teams include a Zumba class led by instructor Laura Love, a midnight chocolate buffet, sack race, paddle ball and hula hoop contest; and several themed laps such as “Purple Out,” “Pajamas,” “Nerd,” “Famous Person” and “Favorite Sports Team.”
“We’re ready and excited!” Snyder said. “Staying all 12 hours is like the stages of cancer — you start out being diagnosed, then going through a hard time, having it rough at first and feeling defeated, but in the end the sun comes out and you can make it through it.”
A closing ceremony is held at 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 4.
“That’s our Fight Back ceremony. We want all the team members to carry signs or pieces of paper that say ‘I fight for ....” or ‘I relay for ....” Snyder said. “We want the community to come back out in the morning to congratulate all of those who stayed.”
For more information about the event, visit the Anderson County Relay for Life website online or on Facebook or call Snyder at 903-729-6882.