Pulaski County Relay for Life is this Friday

·4 min read

Jun. 14—The American Cancer Society's signature fundraiser is back in June.

After holding a parade in 2020 and pushing the event until August last year due to Covid concerns, the Relay for Life of Pulaski County is slated for this Friday at The Center for Rural Development.

"We are back to our June date this year and so excited to welcome back our community," Brooke Cary Whitis, senior community development manager said. "We did decide to not have a separate survivor dinner this year but hope that will return next year."

The Relay is also not a full 12-hour event but has been expanded from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

"When Relay For Life started here in Pulaski County in the mid 1990s, it seemed like people had more time," Whitis explained. "In today's busy world in which people have weekend jobs, caregiving responsibilities or kid's games, our time is more limited. We discussed this with the volunteers and heard them. For many of them, they were physically up for 22 hours straight by the time you figure in them working their job that morning, then coming to Relay and staying till 6 a.m. They were physically exhausted, and it felt like a safety issue that we needed to recognize."

The event is free and open to the whole community. If you can't stay for the duration, be sure to come early for the opening ceremony followed by the survivor lap.

"This lap is so powerful," Whitis said. "We need the public to come out and help clap and cheer for these cancer survivors, many of whom are in treatment and need our love and encouragement. Anyone ever diagnosed with cancer can take this lap. It is special when you see the face of a newly diagnosed person looking behind them and seeing the section of those 25 years or more survivors and seeing their hope increase."

Cancer survivors can register at the event and receive their free purple Survivor shirt while supplies last. While she has worked with the American Cancer Society for several years, Whitis' fight against the insidious disease became more personal in 2018 when she was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. She encourages all skin cancer survivors to participate in the survivor lap.

"As a basal cell carcinoma survivor, myself, I understand that we don't feel worthy of that lap," she said. "But we are cancer survivors. Cancer is cancer regardless of where it is on your body."

Various teams raise money throughout the year for Relay, and will be hosting their own activities Friday night. The event will continue with a silent auction, which will be open through 8 p.m., followed by the luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m.

Whitis said, "The luminaria ceremony is the heart of a Relay event. It's that time when we are quiet and stop walking the track. It's our time to remember those who have battled cancer and those who passed away from cancer. It's the sad moment in our event, but it's the reality of a cancer journey for some. We can never forget our loved ones and it empowers us to fight back with events like Relay For Life, to raise money for cancer research and services like our Hope Lodge in Lexington."

The event will end at 2 a.m. with "The Bell" ceremony, which got its start with a poem penned by Andrea McGowan with Relay For Life of Casey County about 6 years ago and inspired by the tradition of cancer patients ringing a bell once they complete treatment.

"We are ringing the bell for those still in treatment and haven't had their chance to ring the bell yet," Whitis said. "But we are also ringing the bell for those who didn't survive and didn't get their chance to ring the bell. Following the reading of the poem, each person will ring the bell as they take their final lap around the Relay For Life track and think of the person they are ringing the bell for as they walk that lap."

Whitis added that she has shared the poem with Relay For Life events around the United States and the world. In fact, last year, a Relay For Life event in South Africa used McGowan's poem for their ceremony.

On behalf of Relay's organizers, Whitis expressed appreciation to The Center and its President and CEO, Lonnie Lawson, for hosting the event as well as sponsors Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, Don Franklin Dealerships, South Ky RECC, Toyotetsu America, Inc., Citizens National Bank, Monticello Banking Company, Hendrickson, Forcht Bank, L & N Federal Credit Union, Harris & Associates PSC, First and Farmers National Bank, Performance Foodservice, Somerset Pediatrics & Adolescents and Cumberland Security Bank. In addition, this year's Survivor sponsor is WorkPlace Pro, a division of New Life Industries.

For more information about Relay For Life of Pulaski County, please contact the Event Lead Cristi Blanton at 606-875-2051.