SIKESTON -- This year's Scott County Relay for Life will have all the same elements: entertainment, food, games and ceremonies, as well as other activities. But this summer, the event will take place in the daylight.
"We are one of the three pilot day relays here in southeast Missouri," said Kendall Elledge, American Cancer Society staff partner. "We're doing it in hopes that we will have more people come out to the relay and to target more families."
ACS relays are typically at night -- in the past, the Scott County one has been from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. the next morning. This year's relay, however, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to midnight June 14 at the Sikeston Senior High School Track. New Madrid County and Cape Girardeau County are also participating in the pilot programs for a day relay.
"I am really excited that we get to do it during the daytime this year," said Teresa Bye, a cancer survivor and co-chairwoman of this year's relay. "It's a great opportunity to make it more accessible to the community."
Organizers hope the change in hours will lead to more participation -- and they'll get to make the pilot program permanent. "If we grow and we do well, we get to keep a day rally," said Bye.
To begin making plans for the event, two kickoffs are being held tonight to gauge community interest and get others' reactions of the change to a day rally.
Bye said that although all sorts of teams are encouraged to sign up, she wants to increase the number of youth involved -- such as high school groups or church youth groups.
"We need these young kids involved -- we need their enthusiasm," she said, pointing out that those youth are the ones who will be organizing the relay in years to come.
There aren't any specific guidelines for teams, either. Work groups, civic clubs, churches friends or families can form one. Bye recalled that last year, two teams formed in memory of others -- one who had died and another who was still battling cancer.
Renee Nelson, co-chairwoman of the event, said there are some changes in the survivor activities, too. For instance, the survivor dinner will be Friday night.
A new addition will be a memory garden to pay tribute to those living and dead who have fought cancer, as well as to reflect.
"It's just kind of a spiritual place that you can go into that will be manned by local pastors," said Nelson.
It will be decorated with posters, messages and other tributes to cancer victims. "Anything goes pretty much on that," said Nelson.
Since some aren't strong enough to walk the survivor lap, Nelson plans to acquire rocking chairs for those people to rock from the sidelines. "Oftentimes, those people don't come," she said.
Committee members are anticipating that the day relay will draw more people, or at least keep them at the event longer.
Because of that, some extra activities are planned. "The entertainment has definitely increased by being a day relay," said Elledge. She noted that dance and gymnastics groups will perform, and invited any group or business interested in providing an activity or entertainment to come out to one of tonight's kickoffs or to contact her.
Bye added there will be a Kiwanis fish fry to which people can purchase tickets this year, too.
And organizers are also hoping to raise more money -- in fact, this year's goal of $100,000 is about $30,000 more than was raised last year, said Elledge.
Bye said that's because people would often leave as soon as their specific event -- such as the luminary ceremony or survivor walk was over.
"It's a little bit harder for the survivors to get out at night -- they get a little more worn out," added Nelson.
The theme for this year's relay is "Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back." The national theme was adopted by the committee to be used locally.
"It's so powerful and all-encompassing," said Elledge. "We really felt like it was a great theme to have."