Sunday, May 15, 2016

2016 Relay For Life of Polk County

What more could you want than raising money for an excellent cause at an all-night party with plenty of love, support, and entertainment while fighting cancer?  Cancer touches everyone: there is no one in Polk County that has not either had cancer or had relatives, coworkers, or friends suffer from the disease.

The 2016 Relay For Life of Polk County was held May,13-14 at Janssen Park. The past two years, rain has kept us from having Relay For Life in the park, but the weather was beautiful for this year's event. Fifteen teams raised over 8,200.00 during the all-night event; a new record for Relay For Life in its ten-year history here in Mena.

As the Relay event starts we honor our survivors and caregivers with special laps around the track followed by a team lap when every volunteer from every team is circling the track behind their team banner.

After the special laps, Relay becomes one big party with each team having a site with food, games, activities, and items to purchase. There were lots of interesting characters making laps around the track and some crazy activities going on.

Our entertainment this year was provided by the band Aberrant and by Darla Martel. They provided good music while those in attendance circled the track and visited the team sites.

When the sun goes down, the mood becomes a bit somber as luminaria honoring cancer survivors and remembering those we have lost to cancer are lit. Everyone maintains a respectful silence as the names on the luminaria are read. People circle the track looking for those special luminaria that have meaning for them.

After the Luminaria Ceremony, the mood lifts as we prepare to stay all night.  At Relay, our motto is cancer never sleeps, and one night a year neither do we. Relay symbolizes the experience of a cancer patient, beginning at 6 P.M. our survivors circle the track with lots of support. As the night goes on there are fewer and fewer people there.The Relay goes on for twelve hours. By early morning, the participants are worn and tired and the public has left. Cancer patients experience that weariness in their cancer struggle. To keep ourselves awake and motivated the night is filled with activities. There was karaoke, line dancing, Zumba at 2 a.m., and 3 on 3 basketball at 3a.m.

Because cancer never sleeps, neither do Relayers. But when 6 a.m. comes those who have stayed all night break down their team sites and head home to get some sleep. They have memories of Relay and of the awesome community support to keep them motivated to do it all again next year. This years event was a big success with over $8,000 raised the night of the event bringing the total raised this year to over $70,000. The fundraising done by the hardworking Relay For Life of Polk County volunteers will enable the American Cancer Society to help people stay well, help people get well, find cures, and fight back against cancer.

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