SIKESTON -- It's time to break out those walking shoes and prepare for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.
Area organizations, businesses, residents, etc., begin forming their teams and collecting donations this month. This year's Scott County's Relay For Life is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. May 16 and end at 9 a.m. May 17 at the Sikeston High School track.
Whether new or old, many times teams form because they've been affected by cancer in some way.
Gates Rubber Company is one of those teams. They've had a team since the Relay began in Scott County in 1997.
"We started the team several years ago because there were people within the plant who had cancer and we thought it would be a good idea," said Jan Stevenson, co-chair of the Gates Rubber Company relay team.
Stevenson's team has held fundraisers where they've sold raffle tickets, and they've also hosted dinners, selling plates of food for $2 or $3 each to raise funding for the event.
"I think the Relay is important because the money donated can help find a cure for cancer, and I think it's for a really good cause," Stevenson noted.
It's true Relay For Life primarily helps fund research to find a cure for cancer, but it also funds educational efforts to prevent and catch cancer early, advocacy effort for the American Cancer Society and over 30 cancer patient services, said Audrey Brannan, income development specialist for the American Cancer Society office in Sikeston.
"Relay helps family and friends celebrate survivorship," Brannan said. "They get to honor those survivors and it allows them to remember those who have died from cancer."
Brannan said Relay For Life is truly a community bonding event. What's unique about Relay is it's for everybody -- everybody of every color, of different social economic status and of all ages, she pointed out.
Last year's fund-raiser brought $85,000 to the American Cancer Society which was an increase from the $82,000 the year before.
A luminary ceremony is held at 10 p.m. to honor cancer survivors and to remember those who've lost he battle against cancer. Luminaries, which individuals purchase for $5 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. Breast cancer survivor Sandra Schaller will be the guest speaker at the luminary ceremony this year.
One of the goals this year is to get as many cancer survivors from Scott County involved in the Relay as possible. For cancer survivors who aren't up to walking the track, golf carts will be provided to take survivors around the track for the first lap.
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.
An ideal team has between eight and 15 members. However, a team of six or seven is OK, Brannan assured. The reason it's limited is because an award is usually given to the team that raises the most money, she explained. For example, a team of 40 is going to raise more than a team of eight.
And the relay takes place rain or shine. "Cancer doesn't stop for bad weather so why should we?" Brannan said, adding that it is, of course, postponed during lightening and tornado conditions.
It's a good time to get a better understanding of cancer and treatment, said Relay chair Janet Hudspeth. If someone's been told they have cancer, they see (by attending the Relay) it doesn't mean a death sentence, she said. Years ago, it used to mean a death sentence, she added.
Brannan said: "Relay is a party that has some serious moments, but once that's done, the celebration continues because that's what we're really doing -- celebrating survival."
A team captain meeting will be held at noon Friday at Health Systems Inc., 1222 N. Main St. in Sikeston. Lunch will be provided. Those interested in attending Friday and forming or joining teams should call Hudspeth at 472-3911 or the local ACS office at 471-1823.