This Friday will mark a quarter-century of fighting cancer for the Neosho County Relay for Life. The annual event will begin at 6 pm and go through the entire night at Neosho County Community College. In case of inclement weather, the show will go on inside the gym of the student union at NCCC.
To mark the anniversary, the theme for the relay is “25 Years of Shooting Down Cancer.” Event co-chair Sherri Watson has been involved for all 25 of those years. She said that she has lost several family members and countless friends to the disease, and helping in any way she can to find a cure has become her passion.
“We are going to find an answer,” she said. “I believe ACS (American Cancer Society) is our best hope for finding a cure. They use the money wisely for research, for education, for advocacy and services for survivors. I really do believe the answer is coming; it gets a little closer every year.”
There are 19 teams this year that have been fundraising for the event, with several brand new ones participating for the first time. The teams fundraise throughout the year and the relay itself is a celebratory culmination of events with numerous activities throughout the night. There are games, food, music, and themed laps of the relay, as well as fashion and talent shows.
“Relay night is more of a celebration party for everyone that has worked so hard and to celebrate the survivors,” Watson said. “It’s a great family event and we would love to see the community come out for it.”
Watson’s personal favorite event of the evening is the ceremonial lighting of the luminaries that is scheduled for around 9:15 pm. The luminaries are decorated paper bags adorned with the names of those that have fought cancer, lost their battle with the disease or those still fighting. They are lighted with candles and line the path of the relay. There is also a special section with purple luminaries for the ones that have been lost since the last relay.
“It is a very emotional part of the evening for many people each year,” Watson said. “We invite family members to come out and light the luminaries of their loved ones. It’s a very touching time of the evening.”
In its 25 years, Watson said that the Neosho County Relay has raised well over a million dollars for the cause. This year they have a goal of $60,000. It’s not over until it’s over, with last minute contributions coming in until the very end of the relay. Even then, contributions for this year can be taken through August, according to Watson.
“I can’t even say if we are going to be close to the goal or if we will exceed it,” she said. “It’s so awesome for us every year. We are always amazed at how supportive this community is.”
Donations may be made at www.relayforlife.org/neoshocoks