Organizers of the annual global event and fundraiser hosted by the American Cancer Society have planned a big comeback for the 2022 Douglas County Relay for Life.
After two years of activities rooted largely in social media and virtual participation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers look forward to a return of the more traditional in-person activities that honor those lost and affected by cancer and raise donations for research and awareness about the disease. Hope for a cure also will dominate the atmosphere.
Everyone is welcome, said Allie Montgomery, a cancer survivor and chair of Douglas County Relay For Life, in an email.
“It’s a community event and we’d be so happy to have anyone and everyone join us to raise money, spend the evening together, and celebrate cancer survivors. We want cancer survivors to feel both cherished and encouraged during the evening. We want to bring awareness to the caregivers that make the survivors who we are. And most importantly anyone who hates cancer as much as we do belongs here!”
Researchers for the Cancer Statistics Center estimate 1.9 million Americans will receive a new cancer diagnosis in 2022 and an estimated 609,000 will die from cancer, which can affect any person at any age; however, marginalized people experience higher incidence and death rates from the disease. An estimated 2.8 million caregivers in the U.S. — many unpaid family members — provide assistance for those living with cancer.
Montgomery said the event honors cancer survivors and those lost from the disease “both in treatment and enjoying cancer freedom.” Survivors are the night’s honored guests. The relay portion itself includes teams and individuals continuously walking the track to symbolize the never-ending journey in the fight against cancer.
A highlight of the night, Montgomery said, is the quiet and emotional Luminaria Ceremony. As the sun goes down, the luminarias lining the Lawrence High School track will be lit.
“These are dedicated and decorated for people who have or are fighting cancer. Some are in memory of those we’ve lost and some are honoring those still fighting and thriving.”
Anyone can purchase and dedicate a luminaria before or at the event for a $10 donation. And although the pandemic altered in-person activities the previous two years, fundraising has persisted.
“Our funds raised definitely changed in those years but never came near fizzling out because the fight never quits either,” Montgomery said.
Bob Silipigni has worn out a lot of shoe soles walking the community for a cure. Every year since 2001, he has collected donations while raising hope and awareness. His cumulative fundraising total this year surpassed $895,000, making a $1 million fundraising mark possible for him in the next year or two.
Silipigni has raised about $96,000 for this year’s Relay for Life and joked in an email, “I ran cross country at Lawrence High and I’ve never been the same ever since!”
Silipigni said he’s “spiritually driven” and continues the annual tradition in hope having witnessed the disease affect many lives, including his supporters.
“I have met a great many gracious people in this community over the years. They have brightened my life. I just wish some of their news could have been better,” he said. “Again, there are many gracious people in this community. Gracious isn’t always a dollar amount. Many people give from the heart.”
Douglas County Relay for Life’s website shows a fundraising goal of $130,000 for 2022. As of Friday, supporters were less than $4,000 away from reaching that milestone. Montgomery said money raised supports research for a cure and cancer survivors, their caregivers, treatments and programs.
The Relay for Life – with the theme Hope Coming – will take place from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 10 on the LHS track, 1901 Louisiana St. The Luminaria Ceremony is scheduled for 8:45 p.m.
Other activities include a Kid Zone featuring a bounce house, cookie decorating and face painting. A picture scavenger hunt and dance-off also are on tap. Food opportunities include a Survivor Ice Cream Social with Freddy’s Frozen Custard provided for survivors and food and beverage sales by Angela Motsinger, JB’s Tacos, Kona Ice, Uplift Coffee and cotton candy vendor Varis’ Elven Fluffy Stuff. For more schedule details, click here.
The community also is invited to watch a benefit cornhole tournament from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 5 at “Dad” Perry Park’s North Shelter, 1200 Monterey Way. Raffle tickets will be available to purchase as well as food and drink from Wolfes Eaton, Amber Scullery and Kona Ice.
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.