Relay for Life to be held Friday at Turner Park

Published 10:50 am Thursday, April 24, 2014

Purple ribbons line downtown storefronts in support of Relay for Life.

Purple ribbons line downtown storefronts in support of Relay for Life.

Tents and tennis shoes will again fill Turner Park as Relay For Life kicks off Friday, raising thousands of dollars for cancer research.

This year’s event comes with the theme of “Mooving for a Cure” and teams have been encouraged to decorate to accentuate the theme. The opening ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. and include a prayer and national anthem, introduction of Relay pageant winners, recognition of sponsors, a lap for cancer survivors and caregivers and a parade of the teams with their custom banners.

Then the competitions begin.

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Teams will face of as judges score their banners, culinary skills and volleyball prowess, all of which will begin at 7 p.m., along with a “crazy hat lap” around the track.

Throughout the evening, there will be announcements for other themed laps, including a Mardi Gras lap, Hawaiian lap, patriotic lap, hunting and fishing, sunglasses, sports, flip flops, friendly smiles and a backwards lap.

At 8 p.m., relay volunteers will take donations for Locks of Love, a program that turns donated hair into wigs for those affected by cancer treatments.

Relay board member Kathryn Tomlin said those who wish to donate their hair must give a minimum of 10 inches, bundled into a ponytail or braid before it is cut.

Of the night’s two biggest events, she said, are a traditional one and a brand new addition.

The first, will be the luminaria ceremony.

The luminaria are white paper bags with sand and a candle on the inside and the name of a cancer survivor or victim written on the outside.

They will be sold at the event beginning at 1 p.m. and will be placed along the track before the 9 p.m. “glow lap,” in which all the candles will be lit and all other lights turned off while cancer survivors walk the track.

“What this is all about is those names on the bags.” Tomlin said.

John Wilson, husband of cancer survivor Lillian Wilson, said that ceremony is the most worthwhile part of the entire night.

“I particularly enjoy the survivor’s walk,” he said. “It’s beautiful and, to me, it’s very emotional every time I see it.”

Then, at 10 p.m., relay volunteers will host the event’s first ever talent show.

Contestants will go on stage to showcase their chosen talent and donations from audience members will decide the winner.

The talent show is replacing the womanless beauty pageant held in years past.

The Relay for Life board has several additional laps, games and competitions planned to fill in any gaps in time until the 12:45 a.m. awards ceremony.

Board President Cathy Wilkes said the goal for the night is to raise $64,000 for the American Cancer Society and she expects to make that goal with the 200-300 person crowd she believes will attend Friday night.

“It’s a very meaningful event to the community and Crenshaw County always does a good job,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to have the support we do.”

Aside from raising money for cancer research, she said, the event serves an equally important function as a leg of support for those struggling with the disease.

“It gives cancer survivors hope that a cure will be reachedand it shows them they’re not alone,” she said. “It shows we’re supportive and we’re all in it together.”

Team set up for the event will begin at noon Friday, April 25. Wilkes said everyone is welcome to attend and there will be opportunities to contribute to fundraising even for those not already on a team.