Saturday will be a day of fun and activities with a purpose as the Pettis/Johnson County Relay for Life will again be hosted at the Jennie Jaynes Activity Complex at Smith-Cotton High School.
This year’s Relay will see a number of changes, according to Event Lead Melissa McGathy, but the purpose of the event remains the same — to find a cure for cancer.
“As much as I look forward to this event every year, it would be great if we wouldn’t have to have one,” McGathy said. “While survival rates are up and they are finding some new medicines and treatments, unfortunately there isn’t a cure and that’s why we do this each year.
“A portion of all of the funds that we raise stays in Pettis County to help local patients use through programs like ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ that provides wigs for patients and the Hope Lodge in Kansas City and St. Louis that provides lodging for people to stay there when they need to be there for treatments.”
One of the first changes individuals will notice is the date and time change. The event will be hosted from noon to midnight Saturday.
“After talking to other successful event organizers they mentioned that they had more success with relays that were during the day,” McGathy said. “We are hoping it gives families more of an opportunity to come out and spend time together at the event.
“With the forecast calling for temperatures in the 90s we are trying to figure out ways to deal with the heat because we are very mindful that many of those in attendance are battling cancer or may be elderly,” she added. “In the past we have had to worry and deal with the rain, but I don’t think the heat has been such a factor.”
McGathy said if necessary they can move the event indoors to the gymnasium at Smith-Cotton but they are hoping to avoid that if possible.
“It loses some of the meaning if we have to move it indoors,” McGathy said. “We have a number of really fun activities for everyone who attends.
“This year’s theme is ‘Passport to a Cure,’ so as the participants walk the track and visit each booth they can get their passports stamped,” she added. “Each booth has a different country represented and they may have food and items for sale to help raise more funds throughout the night.”
Some of the countries represented include Germany, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica and the United States.
Twenty-nine teams 295 participants have registered to date.
“We have our theme laps again including a patriotic lap, a pajama lap for later in the evening when people are getting a little tired, and a glow lap when we will be using glow sticks,” McGathy said. “The glow sticks are going to be a part of the luminaries this year as well.
“Individuals can make a $5 donation for the decorated luminary bags that will line the track,” she added. “It really is a special part of the event and it will take place around 9:30 Saturday night.”
The event will also feature live entertainment with a local band performing, a flashlight egg hunt and a silent auction. There will also be a kid’s zone with a bounce house, face painting activities and games for the children.
“We will have a special survivors’ tent set up,” McGathy said. “It will be a special area where individuals who are cancer survivors can go and we will provide free food throughout the night for them.
“Pauline Hayes, who is currently battling cancer, will be our speaker during the opening ceremonies,” McGathy added. “The survivors’ lap and her remarks will take place a little after noon on Saturday.”
McGathy was quick to point out that this event involves the work of the many participants and individuals who combine their efforts each year.
“I have two great co-leads this year, Andrea Young and David Seenauth, who have put in so much time and help,” McGathy said. “David was the chair of the Johnson County relay and after they decided they were going to (no longer host) their event he contacted me to offer his expertise and see if they could help.
“We want to give credit to him and his volunteers who will be with us this year,” she added.
McGathy also wanted to thank the teams, individuals and organizations who have worked to raise funds for the Relay.
“We have already raised over $33,576, which is more than we raised prior to last year’s event,” McGathy said. “It’s an amazing amount and I am really excited about the event and what we can do to help the cause.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484