Going from an overnight event to just six hours is the biggest change for this year’s Relay for Life of Jackson County.
What isn’t changing is the purpose of the event — to raise money for the American Cancer Society and bring awareness to all types of cancer.
After being conducted last June, drawing more than 500 people and raising more than $65,000, the event is back to early May, set for 6 p.m. to midnight Friday at Seymour High School’s Bulleit Stadium.
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This year’s event has 34 teams with nearly 300 people so far. Organizers hope to attract about 500 participants reach their goal of $62,000.
“The community has been phenomenal in sponsorships this year,” said Jan Engel, a Relay leadership team member. “We had six sponsors that donated over $1,000, so that’s very, very good. Then a lot of them did $500.”
The survivors dinner this past Saturday was a good lead-in to this year’s Relay, Engel said. The event included 150 survivors and guests gathering at The Point in Seymour.
Engel said this is the first time the cancer society didn’t require the relay to be an overnight event. Late last fall, local teams met and voted to go with a six-hour event.
Engel will lead the opening ceremony then participate in the survivors lap since she is a five-year breast cancer survivor. That will be followed by caregiver, remembrance and event sponsor laps.
“I think the most important thing for a new survivor is that they are going to see people out there that have been a survivor for 10, 15, 20 or 25 years, and that shows them that there’s hope,” Engel said.
“We don’t care whether they make it around the whole track or whether they just walk a short distance. It does not matter,” she added. “But I will tell you, for them being on that track, it makes a difference to them, it really does.”
Amy Siefker also will walk the survivors lap. The Seymour resident has gone through breast cancer diagnoses in 1996 and 2011.
“It makes me feel good to know that I am still here, still fighting,” she said.
She currently is battling stage 4 breast cancer, which has spread to her bones. She also lost both of her parents to cancer.
“It’s a hard thing to handle. You just have to give it all to God and let him take control,” she said.
Siefker’s first Relay experience was with a team from Covered Bridge Health Campus, where she used to work. That group merged with Walking for Love, which was started by one of Siefker’s daughters, Emerald Hays, to honor her.
“I felt very blessed,” Siefker said of her daughter forming a team. “My children and grandchildren mean a lot to me.”
The theme of this year’s Relay is “A Night of Heroes.” Starting at 7:15 p.m., community heroes from the fire, police and sheriff’s departments and medical, military and education fields will be recognized with 10-minute laps around the track and games.
“Our young people, sometimes they don’t know who their hero should be, so we’re providing them,” Engel said. “We want to recognize the heroes we should be looking up to.”
A superhero costume contest is planned at 8:30 p.m. with fiction and nonfiction categories.
“Everybody has different heroes, and it’s just getting you to think about who’s the person in your life that makes a difference,” Engel said.
At 9:30 p.m., there will be a luminaria ceremony to honor survivors and remember those who have died of cancer. For a recommended $10 donation, you can write someone’s name on a bag, and the illuminated bags will be placed around the track. Names will be read over the speaker system, and they will be displayed on a screen.
The Relay will conclude with a new event, Glow Run 5K, at 11 p.m. It’s co-sponsored by Relay For Life of Jackson County and South Central Indiana Running Club. The run, which will follow the Seymour Oktoberfest 5K route, will have an optional superhero theme. Participants can wear glow attire or receive some at the event.
Engel said you don’t have to be on a Relay team to participate in any of the events.
“This is a way, one, to recognize the heroes and, two, get community involvement,” she said. “When you come, you see the fun that we’re having at Relay and the difference you make because whether you give $100 or you give $1, that makes a difference.”
Dr. Stephanie Burgess is on the Bloomin’ Librarians and Friends team. It was formed last year to honor the members’ former co-worker, Jane Kaufman, who died of cancer.
Burgess said they raised money through bake sales, Halloween candy gift baskets, Christmas ornaments, a string art class and a Parking Lot Pickers booth.
“I like seeing all of the survivors, being there and supporting them and seeing that they are still there,” Burgess said.
Twin sisters McKayla and McKenzie Bailey put together a team this year, Too Inspired to be Tired, composed of friends. They formed a team because their cousins are on the Relay committee and they have lost relatives to cancer.
Their goal was to raise $500, but they already have brought in nearly $3,000. Most of the money came from a couple of sponsors, a bake sale and a dance.
“We didn’t think we would be able to make that much,” McKayla said.
Engel said money raised from the event helps local people.
“Two of the chemotherapies that I took … were actually developed by research from the American Cancer Society,” she said.
“Relay is not only about raising money,” she added. “Relay also is about educating. So the more education that we can give about cancer, about prevention, that’s just as critical as raising funds; because if you can prevent it in the beginning, then we don’t have to treat it in the end.”
What: Relay For Life of Jackson County
When: 6 p.m. to midnight Friday
Where: Seymour High School’s Bulleit Stadium off Community Drive
Theme: A Night of Heroes
Schedule of events
6 p.m. — Opening ceremony and survivor, caregiver and remembrance laps
6:30 p.m. — Sponsor recognition lap
7:15 p.m. — Community heroes lap (fire, police and sheriff’s departments)
7:20 p.m. — Game time (The “HEAT” is on)
7:45 p.m. — Community heroes lap (medical field/EMTs)
8:15 p.m. — Community heroes lap (military)
8:30 p.m. — Superhero costume contest
8:50 p.m. — Community heroes lap (educators)
8:55 p.m. — Game time (Relay Apple Style)
9:30 p.m. — Luminaria ceremony (honoring survivors and those who have died of cancer)
10:30 p.m. — Registration opens for Glow Run 5K. The cost is $25.
10:45 p.m. — Fight Back ceremony
11 p.m. — Glow Run 5K
11:45 p.m. — Closing ceremony