Plans being made for annual event
SIKESTON - You'll share laughs and tears, eat constantly, have a chance to catch friends up on the latest and get in some exercise, all the while helping make a difference in the fight against cancer.
It's the best 16 hours you'll ever spend.
Every year individuals, groups, businesses and organizations from throughout the community join efforts to support the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
Although the local 2002 relay isn't until May 17-18, organizers have already hosted the team captain kick-off luncheon and are now starting to deliver packets, take names and make plans to see that this is the best one yet.
It's not at all too soon to start putting teams together and raising the $100 each participant must collect, said Janet Hudspeth, relay chairman. "With this event, the money is collected ahead of time so that part of it is over and the relay becomes a celebration. Collecting the money itself has become a contest as to who can raise the most."
The idea behind the relay is to remind participants that progress is being made in the fight against cancer and that everyone who participates is helping in the effort.
Last year's fundraiser brought in $82,000 to the American Cancer Society which was an increase from the $57,000 raised the year before.
"This year my goal is for us to raise $100,000 and I think we can do that," Hudspeth said with confidence.
The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Field House track with a cancer survivors walk, which sets the stage for the importance of each participant's contribution.
A luminary ceremony is held after dark to honor cancer survivors and to remember those who've lost the battle against cancer. Luminaries, which individuals purchase in honor or in memory of someone, line the track and are left burning throughout the night to remind participants of the importance of their contribution.
Throughout the relay, participants take turns on the track, walking or running in shifts. Each team is asked to keep one member on the track at all times. Team members are also required to pay a $10 registration fee and asked to raise a minimum of $100.
What makes the relay so successful, believes Hudspeth, is that most everyone has in some way been affected by cancer. According to the ACS, one in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Today, slightly more than half of cancer patients survive and the survival rate can be increased through more research and greater community awareness of health issues.
"The response for the relay has been tremendous," Hudspeth said. "Last year we had 1,200 participants which was way up. This year we're hoping for 1,500 people. I think it's just that cancer touches so many lives and that the word has gotten out about the Relay for Life. I've done so many presentations to groups and organizations that have resulted in relay teams."
She noted several newcomers to the annual event this year including the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, City of Sikeston, Wal-mart, Visiting Nurse Association and the Nazarene Church.
Hudspeth, a cancer survivor herself, said those who participate in the Relay do so with determination and pride. They know the money raised from event will help with research costs and fund various programs and services offered by the ACS.
"In my lifetime there will be over 16,000 people diagnosed with cancer and over 14,000 will die from cancer. This year alone there will be almost 200 Scott County residents who'll be diagnosed with cancer and 85 who'll die from the disease."
Groups interested in forming teams or individuals interested in being on one are asked to call Hudspeth at 472-3911 or the local ACS office at 471-1823.