It's "Game On!" in the fight against cancer.
That's the theme for the 2019 American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Pulaski County, set to begin this Friday at 6 p.m. inside the Center for Rural Development.
Now in its 24th year, Pulaski's edition of the ACS signature fundraiser has grown into one of the largest in this area. It's also one which still goes all night, ending at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
"We believe in the all-night Relay as a metaphor for the fight against cancer," Pulaski Relay co-chair Sandy Black said. "When you're first diagnosed, it can be a dark time but it's about getting brighter. The Relay goes from darkness to light."
The event celebrates local cancer survivors, remembers those who have passed away from the disease and allows the community to fight back against cancer. It's free, family-friendly and open to the public.
According to Black, 65 registered teams are working toward a $180,000 fundraising goal. As of Wednesday afternoon, $121,569.21 had been turned in. During the event, those teams will continue raising money at their tent sites or booths -- all decorated in keeping with the "Game On!" theme.
"We always have great food and interesting activities," Black said, adding there will also be a tent that will be accepting donations and personal care items for Hope Lodge in Lexington, which allows cancer patients and caregivers to stay at no charge.
This year, ACS is funding $420 million in 750 cancer research grants nationwide -- 10 of those in Kentucky and totaling $4.49 million. When ACS launched a campaign (ResearcHERS -- Women Fighting Cancer) in April to raise funds for women-led cancer research, two Somerset doctors were selected as ambassadors to serve as role models and build awareness of the contributions of women in the fight against cancer. Dr. Rachel Shelton serves as the General Surgeon and Medical Director at Lake Cumberland Wound Care Center. Dr. Sandy Schuldheisz is Physician/Owner of The Lung and Sleep Disorder Institution.
On Friday, the Relay will kick off with a team of runners carrying the Torch of Hope through downtown arriving to The Center, then carried by three cancer survivors into the event. This will be followed by the cancer survivor lap and caregiver lap. The popular live auction will start at 7 p.m., with a silent auction also getting underway. One of the most special ceremonies is the luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m. Lumimaria bags featuring the names of loved ones who have had cancer may be purchased for $5.
"We want to encourage everyone to come out and and join us for this special event," Black said, adding the event committee is very big on involving as many survivors as possible. "Seeing survivors gives hope to those who've been newly diagnosed."
To encourage such participation, organizers have kept the event indoors where air conditioning is available. "We are grateful to Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO of the Center for Rural Development, for being an 'in-kind' location sponsor," Brooke Cary Whitis, American Cancer Society Relay For Life community representative said.
Other sponsors include Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, Don Franklin Dealerships, Commonwealth Cancer Center, First and Farmers national Bank, L & N Federal Credit Union, Forcht Bank, Monticello Banking Company, Hendrickson, Citizens National Bank, Somerset Pediatric and Adolescent Associates, Harris and Associates, PSC, United Cumberland Bank, Somerset Health Facilities, Adanta and Godfather's Wholesalers.
"We couldn't do any of this without the help of our amazing sponsors," Black said. "We really do have a great community."
For more information, call Black at 606-383-1012, co-chair Cristi Blanton at 606-875-2051, or ACS at 1-800-227-2345.