Relay For Life -- June 2000

''Relay For Life'' is an annual family style fun- and awareness-raising event, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Held annually in thousands of communities across the country, about 50 Relay for Life events will take place in Arkansas this year.

The idea is to mobilize the members of local communities in celebration of cancer survivorship, to honor loved ones who have been lost to cancer, and at the same time raise money for cancer research and support programs.

The first such event in Van Buren County was held in August of 1999. Pictured below, and typical of the antics that happen throughout the event, a relay team member, dressed as Fred Flintstone, lobs a backshot toward a dunking booth.

 Though the date for this year's event has been brought forward several months, the all-night program is much the same.

Activities this year start at 7pm Friday, June 2, on the Clinton High School football stadium grounds, and continue for twelve consecutive hours. Gathering momentum from entertaining performances, lively music, and lots of organized games, family and business team members take turns walking around the track, relay style.

And, while team costume themes are encouraged, they are not a requisite for participation. 

Throughout the night, with stadium lights blazing, team members camp-out around the track, nosh on munchies, take naps, play with their children, visit with friends, and cheer team mates on. But there is no actual race. The whole idea, according to event organizers, is to just get folks together for an evening of reminiscing, remembrance, and fun. 

A highlight of the evening is the Luminary service, which pays tribute to individuals who have lost their lives to cancer. During this ceremony, all field lighting is dimmed and the track is illuminated by a huge circle of glowing candles. Tribute candles are available for a nominal donation which benefits in the fundraising effort. 

Anyone can participate in the event, however a registration fee of $10 per team member is requested. Also, each team member is asked to raise $100 in donations, but there is no requirement to do this. And, this particular fundraising aspect of the overall program is carried out before the event actually takes place.

All the money raised by combined volunteer efforts goes to patient services, education, advocacy, and research programs, funded by the American Cancer Society, which reportedly spends only 4% of it's annual operating budget on administrative costs.  

At the local level, donated dollars translate to individual benefits in the form of direct assistance for cancer patients, facilitation of ''Opt to Stop'' smoking cessation programs in the workplace, coordination of ''Tell A Friend'' health awareness programs, and orchestration of the ''Kids Cancer Camp.''

For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit their Website or phone 1-800-ACS-2345.

For more information about joining the VBC Relay For Life, purchasing a Tribute Luminary, or making a personal donation to the cause, contact Rhonda Pickett, 745-8200, Rhonda Davis, 745-6801, or Phillip Ellis, 745-7200.

 *  *  *