The annual Highland County Relay for Life kicks off Friday evening and for the first time in several years it looks like Mother Nature will cooperate.
The event that raises funds for the American Cancer Society starts with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Friday at the Highland County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro and concludes at noon Saturday.
A year ago local Relay for Life organizers set a goal to raise $80,000. That target was shattered when the final total came to $100,043.
This year the local organizers set of goal of raising $85,350 and so far they have surpassed the halfway point by raising $55,826 before the big event has kicked off.
“Of course, we would love to beat last year’s amount,” said Cindy Wilson, the event co-leader with Cheryl McGee.
During the course of the relay there are food booths, merchandise for sale, and raffles and games for children. There’s also a silent auction and charity auction, all geared toward raising money to fight the battle against cancer.
“It is a lot of fun. Arrive by 6 p.m. and stay as long as you like,” said Mary Washburn, Wilson’s sister and the captain of team Beat Cancer. “Each team has a ‘campsite’ and you can hang out with us. Bring a lawn chair. We have awnings set up in case of rain. This is not a race. Each team has a Spirit Stick and it is carried by a member or family member walking the track. The Spirit Stick is given to another team or family member and they walk the track. Someone from each team walks the track for the 18-hour duration.”
Following the opening ceremonies cancer survivors, who are provided with T-shirts, walk the track and then go to dinner with a caretaker. There is a luminary celebration at 9:30 p.m. and as each luminary is lit, the name of person it was purchased in memory of is announced. The luminaries stay lit and line the track the entire event.
Relay for Life is open to the public to come and purchase food, pay nominal fees to play the games, and buy merchandise and raffle tickets to help the American Cancer Society.
Following is a partial schedule:
• 6 p.m. – Opening ceremonies
• 6:45 p.m. – Sponsors walk the track
• 7:15 p.m. – Veterans walk the track
• 8 p.m. – Charity auction
• 9 p.m. – Caretaker lap
• 9:30 p.m. – Lighting of the luminaries
The fun continues throughout the night and into the morning with different themed laps and fun aimed at helping the teams keep going.
“Yes, we really relay all night for your loved ones. Help us find the cure so your loved ones never have to hear those awful words, ‘You have cancer.’ Thank you for your support,” Washburn said.
A year ago 25 teams and 322 individuals participated in the Highland County Relay for Life. The top three fundraising teams, in order of finish, were: in the Family & Friends category, Cows for a Cure, Charlie’s Angels and Beat Cancer; in the corporate category, NCB, Merchants National Bank and Hobart Helping Hands; and in the Small Business category, Southern State Cancer Crusaders, Greenfield Adena Medical Center and Highland District Hospital.
Each of the past three years the weather has either postponed the event, forced it indoors, or caused damage to some of the booths. But this year’s forecast is for clear and sunny skies both days.
Wilson said the money raised helps with lifesaving programs, services, and research efforts to end cancer.
“So come out Friday evening for dinner and all the fun festivities or Saturday morning for breakfast,” Washburn said.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.