The stage is being set and the pieces are falling into place for the group that has put a lot of energy and effort into making sure the 12-hour Relay for Life of Acadia Parish improves on the successes of last year.
For many, however, Relay for Life is the event everyone talks about yet no one knows about.
The next set of preparations will come Monday night as team captains (5:30 p.m.) then committee members (6:30 p.m.) will meet at the Wells Fargo Building, located at 10 N. Parkerson Avenue. Anyone interested in Relay for Life in any capacity is urged to attend this meeting, however.
Relay for Life is an event put on by the American Cancer Society, and dedicated individuals, in communities across the country. It draws on the support of the community to help fund the fight against cancer as well as celebrate all the lives that have been affected by the terminal disease.
It acknowledges first the survivors, which according to the American Cancer Society, a person becomes the day they are diagnosed with the disease. The survivors also kickoff the event with the Survivors’ Lap.
During the Survivors’ Lap, all cancer survivors at the event take the first lap around the track, celebrating their victory over cancer while being cheered on by the other participants who line the track.
Relay for Life then celebrates caregivers, who give time, love and support to their friends, family, neighbors and coworkers facing cancer.
Often, the caregivers are the forgotten group in cancer battles as many remember those who have survived and those who lost the battle. But, the American Cancer Society strives to recognize any and all who have been part of the battle against cancer.
The remainder of the opening ceremonies belong to the teams and their captains. Each Relay for Life has several teams who look to entertain, raise money and create the fun atmosphere usually associated with Relay for Life events. They are charged with fundraising throughout the year as well as the night of the event. Teams also have to create tent areas that adhere to the event’s theme as well as an activity or two and food. After all, it is an all-night event.
For Acadia Parish’s 2013 event, the theme is “Relay: Carnival for a Cure.” It will take place Saturday, April 13 at Crowley High School beginning at 6 p.m.
As the sun sets and night befalls the event, one of Relay for Life’s most well-known and emotional ceremonies takes place, the Luminaria Ceremony.
As the sun sets, luminaria lining the track light up the night. A hush falls over the crowd that had been overflowing with celebration. Relay For Life participants, survivors and caregivers then gather to remember loved ones lost to cancer and to honor those whose fight continues.
Luminarias can be purchased through the Relay for Life’s website, or through any person associated with Relay for Life of Acadia Parish. The cost is $10 and each can be personalized. In fact, with many local Relay’ers, the bags themselves can be personalized to show off the personality of the person the luminaria is dedicated to.
There is one other ceremony held at Relay for Life events and that is the Fight Back Ceremony. This emotionally powerful ceremony inspires Relay participants to take action. The Fight Back Ceremony symbolizes the emotional commitment each of us can make in the fight against cancer. The action taken represents what we are willing to do for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our community to fight cancer year-round and to commit to saving lives.
It is fitting that many of the ceremonies have symbolism involved as the Relay for Life event itself is symbolic of a cancer patient’s fight against the disease.
Relay for Life starts at dusk and ends at the next day’s morning with the light and darkness of the day paralleling the physical effects, emotions and mental state of a cancer patient while undergoing treatment.
As the Relay begins, the sun sets, symbolizing the time that the person was diagnosed as having cancer. Many cancer patients look for the light but have a fear that this is the beginning of the end. The day gets darker, as do many cancer patients’ state of mind, and the temperatures drop, as do many cancer patients’ emotions.
Typically, the hours of 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. represent the time of day when cancer patients start their treatments. Relay’ers, who have now spent seven to eight hours walking and participating in various activities at Relay for Life, typically begin feeling exhausted, as do cancer patients not wanting to go on. The participant is tired and wants to sleep and maybe even go home, but knows they cannot stop or give up, just as a cancer patient feels and knows.
As the event draws to a close, the hours of 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. are symbolic of the cancer patient’s treatment coming to an end. It has been a long and tiring journey, but they have all came so far and know they can make it.
As the sun rises, typically around 6 a.m., the light at the end of the tunnel cannot only be seen by participants but has been reached. This is symbolic of a cancer patient’s end to his or her treatments and knowledge that life will go on.
But participants are reminded that even though the event comes to an end, the battle does not as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life adheres to the motto, “There is no finish line until we find a cure!”
There is still time to create a team, sign up as a participant and make plans to attend this year’s event. Even if you would like to participate in the future, seeing a Relay for Life event first hand gives many the opportunity to learn hands-on what it is all about.
For more information about Relay for Life of Acadia Parish, visit main.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=51332 and/or like the event’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Relay-For-Life-of-Acadia-Parish/253668988023170.
Those seeking more information can, of course, also attend Monday night’s meetings in Crowley.