Yearly Relay For Life ready to run again
This year's eighth annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life in Eudora is itself a survivor.
Despite early uncertainty and competing relays outside of Eudora, the event presses on.
Laws Field will be open, the luminarias lit and donors will walk side-by-side with cancer survivors in a solid show of community support.
The 12-hour event, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at Laws Field, will be one part somber memorial and one part joyful festival.
It will be a joyful festival that made it despite the loss of last year's organizers, and continued despite an early sense of ennui, Eudora resident and event chair Ashley Olson said.
That was then, and now she senses nothing can hold it back.
"I feel very optimistic that it is going to be a successful relay. We're very excited," Olson said.
Pro-ceeds from the relay help buy medical equipment and fund research into new medications and techniques to treat cancer.
After last year's success at raising $52,000, this year the event organizers set a goal of $60,000.
Because of the late start, however, Olson said she would be pleased with anything.
Both private and corporate teams collected money through pledges and the sale
of luminarias -- candles lit in sand-filled bags to remember those who have lost their battle with cancer or to honor those fighting the disease. The goal was to have each team member raise $100, Olson said.
More than 50 corporate sponsors collected $17,000 through direct donations or prizes available through drawings during the night, corporate sponsorship chair Melissa Mullis said.
"I've been very impressed with the generosity of this town and Lawrence," Mullis said.
The luminarias will be lit during a 9 p.m. ceremony and the names of the deceased or those fighting the disease will be read.
In the past, this ceremony has left a strong impression on Tom Pyle. Eudora's mayor of two months has attended the relays in support of his daughter and granddaughter since before Eudora began having the event.
"It's all very impressive when you see the luminarias with the peoples' names and as you walk around and see people you know," Pyle said.
Each team is asked to have at least one representative walking on the track for the entire 12 hours as a sign of solidarity with the cancer patients, Eudora resident and organizer Marilyn Laws Porter said.
To make the long laps easier, The Junkyard Jazz Band -- a band that plays perennially at the relay -- DJs, a band of clowns and other entertainers will be on hand to keep the good times rolling.
"No one can do it like a small town can," Porter said.
The support staff behind the scene also brings together people from across the community.
The Junior Cardinal Wrestling Club will serve concessions. Walkers can look forward to pork sandwiches, soda and popcorn, Olson said.
Parishioners from Holy Family Church's St. Theresa's Society will also be supplying pies for the event.
Before the start of the event, Cutter's will provide a catered meal for cancer survivors taking part in the relay.
Olson said she understood why so many people have helped with the Relay For Life over the years.
"Cancer doesn't discriminate, and everyone has been affected by cancer in some way or another," she said. "The money we raise as a community just does so much."