This year's Relay For Life has a new venue in hopes of drawing more participation, said Carolyn Foster, Hopkins County's Relay sponsorship chair. The event takes place Friday at the Madisonville Community College Health Campus next to Baptist Health on Laffoon Street. Teams and individuals will walk in support of cancer research.
"Relay For Life means the world to me," said Foster. "Because I am a cancer survivor, so I know what it feels like to get the diagnosis, 'you have cancer' and what you have to go through. I have lost several good friends; it's important for me to tell people to please come, please support and please give so that we can continue our research to hopefully have a world one day where more people can have birthdays."
Relay For Life is in its 35th year as a community-based fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. The event continues to pursue compassion and support for everyone who has been affected by cancer, said Brittany Bennett, community development manager for the ACS.
"Everybody you know has been affected by cancer," she said. "Whether it's your parents, whether it's a sibling, sometimes it's your best friend. At some point in everybody's lives, they will be touched by this terrible disease. And the people that you see on Relay night are the ones who have been affected and have decided they never want this to happen to anybody else again. That's why they Relay -- to have a better tomorrow to make cancer a thing of the past."
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This year is the first year that the event is not being held at one of the county's high schools, said Foster.
"We decided to go to MCC's health campus and to do it there because of lack of participation in previous years," she said.
The change of venue is kismet for Bennett, who said that MCC was gracious to offer the space.
"We went out there, and we looked at it, and we knew it was absolutely perfect," she said. "It's a beautiful location, lots of good parking, lots of places for an indoor area for the survivors in case it gets too hot, which you never know, it's September, it might be. Our hope is to keep Relay fun and exciting."
Relay For Life is only one of the programs that the ACS offers. Last year, Hopkins County residents received over 273 nights at the society's Hope Lodge, said Bennett. Hope Lodges are all across the country and give rooms to patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. The two nearest locations are Nashville and Lexington.
In 2018, Hopkins County received over 418 services from the ACS, said Bennett. These services included the Hope Lodge, wigs and head coverings, Road to Recovery -- which are rides to and from treatment -- and resource referral -- where ACS partners with the hospital systems for referrals.
Currently, the team that has raised the highest amount for Hopkins County's Relay For Life is Carhartt -- their team has raised over $5,000. Their team captain and co-chair of Friday's event, Trina Duncan, said she looks forward to Relay each year because of how it brings the community together.
"I love seeing everyone's faces. I am looking forward to the luminaria service -- because it's very beautiful. I am also looking forward to having fun and having that community camaraderie," Duncan said. "Relay is special in my heart. I want to find a cure. I don't ever want to get another call saying, 'Hey, I have cancer,' that's my goal -- not to have to live in fear of someone I love being diagnosed."
Relay For Life opens to the public at 5 p.m., and the opening ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. During the event, there will be jump houses for kids and a DJ providing entertainment. At 9 p.m. the luminaria ceremony will begin -- during the event attendees can purchase a luminaria in memory or in honor of a loved one who has battled cancer.