It’s an experience many find grueling and difficult to face, though the love and support of a community can ease the burden.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) provides some of that support through the annual fundraiser Relay for Life. The worldwide event is held each year from dusk until dawn to symbolize the mental and physical changes felt by a person fighting the disease.
Jefferson County will host their Relay for Life ceremony from 7 p.m. Friday, May 18, to 7 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Seneca High School, 3510 Goldsmith Lane. This year’s theme will be “Everyone Has A Story.”
“It is very symbolic (of the journey) that a cancer patient takes,” said Alana Baker, a community representative of the ACS. “It’s really touching to think about because (the ceremony) mirrors kind of the emotions of when (someone is) first diagnosed. When it’s (over), they’re seeing the light at the end of the journey.”
In more than 20 years of Relay for Life, the event has raised $3.4 billion for cancer research and preventative measures. But, while cancer rates are decreasing, Kentucky is still largely at risk for certain types of the disease, with 68 people diagnosed each day in the state.
“We continue to see an increase in cancer rates in our state,” Baker said. “I think a lot of it has to do with healthy living and lifestyle choices.”
Through Relay for Life, people are given the opportunity to celebrate the advancement in cancer prevention and technology, while commemorating the lives of those who have battled cancer or lost their life to the disease.
“We’re expecting anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 in its peak,” Baker said of attendance at this year’s Jefferson County Relay. “Right now, we’re expecting about 200 survivors, which will be fantastic. With our event, particularly, I expect we’ll make anywhere from 200 to 250,000 dollars.”
Throughout the 12-hour ceremony, participants will be offered plenty of entertainment to keep them alert and active. The event will host a coney dog eating challenge, relay Olympics and a midnight movie, among other activities.
The luminaria ceremony will take place at sunset and pay tribute to those who have experienced cancer. White luminaria bags can be purchased and personalized with the name, photo and a message or drawing in memory or honor of a friend or loved one who has been affected by cancer.
“The best part is definitely the luminaria ceremony,” Baker said. “We take white bags and we light them and we turn off all the lights so that’s the only thing that’s visible and it’s really touching to see. … It’s my favorite part and it always has been.”
To register or join a team for Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org/jeffersonky. More information on the ceremony’s history and success can be found at the above website.