SIKESTON - For those who've lost someone to cancer the luminaria ceremony at the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life can be part of the healing process.
It provides extra hope and emotional support for individuals battling the disease and gives those who know someone with cancer an opportunity to help fight for a cure.
This year's ceremony is set for 10 p.m. May 17 on the Sikeston High School Field House track where a choir will sing in the background as a candle is lighted for each person who has lost the battle with cancer, the survivors and for those still fighting. The names will be read aloud by Elizabeth Wilson.
The choir, directed by Harold Myrick and Mike Parker, is made up of anyone in the community interested in singing during the ceremony.
Speakers for this year's event are Beth Butcher, a cancer survivor, and Mitch Jackson.
As in years' past, the ACS invites residents to purchase a luminaria by sending in a $5 or more donation with the name of the purchaser and the individual it is for, along with whether it is in memory or honor of the person, to the American Cancer Society, 201 N. New Madrid St., Sikeston, Mo. 63801.
The money from the luminarias will stay locally and be used to fund various programs for cancer patients such as the Look Good Feel Good project and services such as nutritional supplements.
"So many of us are affected by cancer in some way," said Julie Conway, co-chairman of this year's luminaria ceremony. "I have friends that are fighting cancer and have had relatives that lost the battle against cancer. Any one of my family members or friends could learn that they have cancer tomorrow. This is one way I can help fight this terrible disease."
It is asked that the luminarias be purchased ahead of time to give organizers time to go through the requests and make certain everyone has a bag. Also, it is suggested to hand deliver luminaria requests as it gets closer to time for the event, to ensure they are received.
Cheryl Krebs, co-chairman, noted the luminaria ceremony first started in 1987 in Seattle, Wash., when organizers decided to place luminarias around the track as a way of brightening it up. "It set an ambiance, it totally changed the whole tone of the ceremony and because of that they started talking to other communities who had seen this and it became nationwide for the Relay For Life," she explained.
Last year there were over 1,000 luminarias at the Sikeston track. This year's goal is 1,500.
"It's real emotional, especially for those that purchase a bag," Krebs said. "It's their way of remembering or honoring someone that they love. You look at those bags and you see every one of them represents somebody. It really hits close to home for a lot of people, it's a very warming, peaceful feeling."
She said what was especially heartwarming was watching so many individuals stand out in the pouring rain during last year's storm and doing everything they could to prevent the candles from going out in bags that symbolized their friends and loved ones.
"Last year it was extremely emotional to see the people standing out there in the rain with their umbrellas, shadowing their luminarias just so they would stay lighted," Krebs said.
"It is a very touching ceremony," agreed Conway. "It is a chance to remember those that have lost the fight against cancer and those that are battling this terrible disease. We had a wonderful turnout last year despite the rain, the track was completely outlined in luminarias. Hopefully the weather will cooperate this year and it should be a beautiful ceremony."
This year, to try to make it a little easier for individuals to find their particular luminaria, organizers plan on alphabetizing the last names into sections.
For more information contact the ACS office at 471-1823, Krebs at 472-4323 or Conway at 471-2753.