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Feelings of bittersweet excitement mixed with hope, some sadness and determination will be coursing through the veins of Spencer County Relay for Life participants this Friday and Saturday as they walk to raise cancer research funds and heighten awareness of the all-too-common disease.
The event is at Spencer County High School and will kick off at 6 p.m with a survivors’ dinner honoring survivors and their caregivers. Relayers will be “United for a Cure” during the annual walk-a-thon, which falls on Flag Day this year. To emphasize the patriotic theme, each of the 21 teams selected a state and are decorating their tents with items characteristic of that state. The evening will be filled with lots of events, including those honoring survivors, remembering cancer victims and some that bring lightheartedness to a subject that can be overwhelmingly sad.
Relay committee chair Mary Beth Thomas said she is very excited at the 2013 Relay for Life. She said community and local business support has been at its highest in recent years.
“I have had the most wonderful teams and committee this year,” she said.
This week’s relay will include music by David Stevens and Jared Mattingly, a cake auction, a kid’s fun zone with bounce houses, face painting and games, a hot air balloon glow, a guest appearance by television personality and news anchor Dawn Gee, food vendors, a silent auction and the popular Dude Beauty Contest.
The actual walk-a-thon begins at 7 p.m. with the survivors’ lap. Thomas said she expects between 75 to 100 survivors at the Relay, but that number in no way reflects all of Spencer County’s cancer survivors.
“(Spencer County) probably has at least five or six youngsters that are battling,” Thomas said.
The Relay for Life hits particularly close to home for Relay committee member Lori Riddle. Riddle’s son, Brady Riddle, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma — a rare, rapidly developing cancerous tumor on the retina — when he was just 2 1/2 years old. Brady had to have his left eye removed, but he is now a healthy, happy child with no signs of cancer.
“When Brady was diagnosed with cancer, I felt completely helpless. Knowing that there was nothing I could do physically to make my baby better broke my heart,” Lori said. “Then when I was asked to participate in Relay, I felt like that maybe in some small way, I could make a difference. If I could prevent another mommy from experiencing all the pain that I felt and still feel, it would be worth all my time and effort.”
Riddle said the Relay gives the community a common goal around which to rally.
“The Relay teams in this community work so closely together that we are like a little extended family. We cry together, pray together and laugh together. We all work so hard for one common purpose: to fight cancer,” Lori said.
Thomas encouraged all community members to come out to the high school Friday and stay for the event that lasts until 7 a.m. Saturday morning. She said there will be events all night to help keep participants motivated.
Thomas said it is important keep the fight to eradicate cancer at the forefront of people’s minds.
“It strikes the best people,” Thomas said, who has had a scare with cancer herself. She said she is now fine.
The following is a schedule of events for the evening:
6 p.m.: Survivors dinner in the high school cafeteria. The dinner is free to survivors and a guest
6:30 p.m.: Music by David Stevens and Jared Mattingly begins
7 p.m.: Relay officially starts with the survivors’ lap
7:30 p.m.: Parade of banners
10 p.m.: Luminaria ceremony honoring those fighting cancer and those who have lost the battle
— Events will be ongoing throughout the evening
For additional information, Thomas can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group also has Facebook page entitled Relay for Life Spencer County Kentucky.