Begun Friday night and scheduled to end this morning at the McClellan Youth Soccer Complex, the event brought out 126 teams, according to Amie Hinton, an American Cancer Society staff partner. While 1,305 individuals registered online to participate, “there are many more who come out without registering,” Hinton said.
The fundraiser officially kicked off the second week in January, and as of Friday, Calhoun County has raised over $200,000 this year. Donations for teams can continue to come in through August.
Relay for Life is free for anyone who wants to come out, Hinton said. All that is asked of participants is that they raise money in some way for the American Cancer Society while there.
Some teams, including RMC’s with a lemonade stand-themed tent labeled “Elemonating Cancer,” were there in overall support for the American Cancer Society.
Other teams had members like Jeff Munroe, who lost his son Bradey at the age of eighteen, eight months after the boy was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. At the time of his death, Bradey was a senior at White Plains High School.
“It gets personal,” Munroe said.
Members of the community agreed that cancer affects everyone, not just the elderly.
Oxford High School art teacher April Watson experienced Relay for Life for the first time under an Avengers-themed tent with the Oxford High art club and art honor society Friday night. Watson noted that one of her sophomores is a survivor of childhood leukemia and was a big supporter of the fundraiser.
“She’s been so excited about this tent all year,” Watson said.
Almost every team had activities or something to sell, from raffle tickets to win an iPad or big screen TV, to fingernail painting and snow cones.
Federal Mogul’s Relay for Life team had a Fear Factor-themed tent and raised money by getting people to participate in a series of three frightening challenges, including guessing what smell was in one of six diapers.
Lisa Gill had a trio of girls from her church-connected team dress up like an apple, a banana and a grape bunch, walk around and pass out free fruit and brochures. Shouts of “eat healthy” were heard from the fruity trio all around the soccer fields.
Like many of the teams, Gill’s group had many cancer survivors. “We’re trying to fight for all of them,” she said.
Relay for Life held a special tent in honor of the survivors. Eight-year breast cancer survivor Maktia Turner said the event “brings a joy to know you can celebrate the joys and the hardships” associated with the disease. To see the community coming out and supporting the cause, she said, “means a lot.”
Opening ceremonies were held at 7 p.m. and started with a cancer survivor and caregiver lap around the track lined with around 3,000 candles in sand-weighted paper bags, or luminaria.
That lap was the first of hundreds that would be made over the next 13 hours as team members pledged to walk until 8 a.m. with the idea that “cancer doesn’t sleep” so for one night neither will the volunteers.
One of Relay for Life’s most special moments is the Luminaria Ceremony of Hope. During that time all the lights are turned off and a moment of silence is given in honor and respect for the survivors and those lost to cancer. The luminaria are lit to spell the word “HOPE” — the quality shared among those in attendance.