When the 2015 Relay for Life of Barton County begins Friday night, it will be kind of a big deal. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the annual cancer-fighting event.
The relay is set to open at 6 p.m. Friday and end at 6 a.m. Saturday in the Barton County Courthouse Square, barring inclement weather. In case of rain, it will be held in the Great Bend City Auditorium and wrap up at 1 a.m.
“Twenty years is a long time for our community to support Relay for Life,” relay Chairperson Kandi Wolf said, thanking everyone for their involvement. “Barton County should be extremely proud of the continued support of the American Cancer Society and of relay.”
Now, Wolf said they want to celebrate this landmark. “We would love to have past chairpersons in attendance for the opening ceremony to be recognized.”
Over the years, Wolf said the Barton County relay has continually ranked in the top five nationally for relays in its size category. And, since that first event in 1995, Barton County has raised over $1 million for cancer research.
“That’s quite an accomplishment,” Wolf said.
Also remarkable is the fact that many of the participants and teams have been a part of the relay since the very beginning.
In honor of this milestone, this won’t be the same old relay, Wolf said. “We have several new things planned this year.”
What is going on?
There will be a live auction at 7:30 p.m. This will feature items collected and donated by the relay teams and all the proceeds go to the ACS.
At 9:30 p.m. will be a living luminary ceremony. “No one can come away from this without tearing up,” Wolf said.
During this, relay participants will wear white T-shirts decorated with remembrances while holding flashlights and relating why they take part in relay. It is a solemn, emotional event.
This is a new concept, Wolf said. This is the first time this will be done at a Kansas relay.
Also, back for the second year is the Purple is Powerful Survivor Choir. Headed up by Barb Schwartz, it features cancer survivors who will perform during the opening.
Any survivor is welcome to show up and sing, Wolf said.
In addition, there will be teams selling food items, bounce houses for the kids, games, a silent auction, a scavenger hunt and other activities through out the night. There will also be live music by local artists and a disc jockey.
Of course, there will be the traditional survivor lap, and regular luminary remembrance and fight-back ceremonies.
“Sure, we want to remember those we’ve lost to cancer, but we also want to celebrate those who have beat it,” Wolf said. That is why they want a party-like atmosphere.
The theme this year is Beach Party. So, teams will decorate their campsites accordingly. Wolf said.
All survivors are welcome to come. If they haven’t already registered, they can do so the night of relay.
But, Wolf said, anyone is invited and encouraged to stop by and get involved. “The public is welcome, too.”
“Nobody in Barton County is even supposed to think the word ‘rain,’” Wolf said. But, should it happen, there is the contingency plan.
The relay will move to the City Auditorium at Lakin and Williams. “We will have a shortened version of relay that will end at 1 a.m.,” she said.
A decision will be made by noon Friday whether to change or not. An announcement will come over the radio and through social media.
A relay is an over-night event meant to symbolize a cancer patient’s journey from diagnosis to being cancer free. Relay for Life was started in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash., as a local event and grew into a world-wide effort. This grass-roots movement is the ACS’s largest fund-raising venture.
There are 20 teams taking part in this year’s Barton County relay. The fundraising goal is $100,000.
For more information on the Barton County Relay, contact Chairperson Kandi Wolf at 620-797-5651, or visit the event’s Facebook page, Relay for Life of Barton County.