Area residents are invited to an all-nighter this Saturday, May 21 when the Monett Relay for Life gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Burl Fowler football stadium. The annual American Cancer Society fundraiser continues until 7 a.m. on Sunday.
"The Relay is built around a cancer diagnosis," said Jennifer Cendroski, who serves as co-chair of the Monett Relay of Life Committee with Betty Messer. "It's light and bright and then you go into the dark, which represents the cancer diagnosis, and you emerge at the end in the light of the morning."
Relay teams, who set up decorated campsites around the track, will walk laps throughout the night. The teams also offer food and games that area residents are invited to participate in.
"That is how a lot of the teams raise money," said Messer.
The evening officially begins with the survivor's lap at 7:10 p.m. Anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis is invited to participate by walking a lap of the track to mark the start of the Relay. Registration begins at 6 p.m. and individuals can sign in until the lap begins at 7 p.m.
A caregivers lap follows the survivors lap, and then the team lap is held. From that time on, teams must continually have someone on their team walking the track until 7 a.m. the next morning.
Another very important part of the evening is the luminaria ceremony, which begins at 9:30 p.m. Luminarias are sold in honor of someone who has won the battle with cancer and in memory of those who have died from cancer.
"It's a very moving ceremony," said Messer.
Other activities include the silent lap at 1 p.m. and the very popular queen contest at 10:30 p.m.
"Anyone can come out to the Relay events," said Cendroski. "It's about the fun, the games and the comradery of getting out in the community and supporting this great cause."
Currently, there are 18 teams participating in the Relay, which is down slightly from last year. Cendroski said the slight drop in team numbers does not reflect a decrease in participation.
"This year, the Relay changed the number of people who could be on a team," said Cendroski. "For example, EFCO had two teams because team numbers were limited. This year, we have one team with the about the same number of people involved."
"And surprisingly, considering the down economy, we're ahead of where we were last year in terms of fundraising," added Messer.
An addition to this year's line-up of activities is the "Give a Hoot" 5Krun/walk, which begins at 11:59 p.m.. Interested runners and walkers can sign up that night.
"Hopefully, the run will draw people to the event and draw attention to the Relay," said Cendroski.
The money that is raised at the Monett Relay for Life stays in the community, Cendroski said. This year's goal has been set at $83,500.
"We appreciate the community's support," added Messer. "The business have been generous, especially in this type of economy. We hope to see them there."
And while fundraising is important, the Relay also serves to draw attention to the impact cancer has on almost everyone's life and provides inspiration to those battling cancer.
"Relay for Life brightens a cancer survivor's day . . . the ones who go to Relay, it's a triumph for them," said Cendroski. "It's an important event for people who are trying to look forward."
In the event of excessive rain or thunderstorms, Relay for Life will be moved inside to the E.E. Camp Gymnasium located on Ninth Street.
Members of the Monett Relay for Life Committee: Betty Messer and Jennifer Cendroski, event co-chairs; Connie Meeks and Tiffany Tallent, public relations; Beth Luebbering and Michelle Crim, basket auction; Emma Faye Ruscha and Helen Ruscha, survivorship; Laura Apostol, luminary ceremony; Ashley Alford, accounting and registration; Emily Mettlach and Sandy Alford, corporate sponsorship and luminaria; Sue Craker and Lisa Lamp, luminaria; and Darrin Henson, logistics.