Elk County Relay for Life is going purple

An overnight celebration of life and cancer survivorship, the 2011 American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Elk County is set for Friday and Saturday, June 10 and 11 at the Fox Township Community Park in Kersey.Team members walk around the clock in solidarity with the battle against cancer. This celebration brings together numerous groups and individuals concerned about cancer as part of a unified effort to fight back."Relay for Life is a unique fundraising event that allows participants from all walks of life - including patients, medical support staff, corporations, civic organizations, churches and community volunteers - to join together to fight cancer," said Susan Babik of St. Marys, income development specialist for the American Cancer Society's East Central Division, including Elk County. "Relay reminds us that progress has been made in the fight against cancer and that everyone who participates is making a difference."The Relay will begin at noon on Friday, with the opening ceremony set for 6 p.m. A "Survivors' Victory Lap" will also take place at this time. This is an emotional time, with participants gathering around the track and offering applause as they show support for these individuals. There is no cost to participate and survivors who call to register for the lap will receive a complimentary T-shirt. Families are welcome to attend. Last year, 75 survivors took part in the event."A survivor could be anyone recently diagnosed, has had cancer for years or is a long-time survivor," Babik said.Babik encourages survivors to sign up for a special dinner being held in their honor at the event. The free dinner is being provided and served by staff from Elk Regional Health Center. Registration for the dinner starts at 4:30 p.m., with dinner being served from 5-5:30 p.m.Once night falls, the Luminaria Ceremony is held in honor of survivors and to remember those who have lost their battle. The luminarias line the track and are left burning throughout the night to remind participants of the incredible importance of their contributions. "It will be beautiful when all the bags with candles are illuminated around the track," said Kari Ryan, luminaria chair and member of Team SMP. "We hope to sell enough to light the entire area."A festive atmosphere sets the stage for the relay, with participants entertaining one another by hosting and playing games, singing, eating, and of course, walking laps. The general public is invited to attend the event and teams welcome visitors with open arms. As an effort to promote the Relay for Life, area businesses, organizations, schools and clubs are encouraged to "Paint the Town Purple," during the week leading up to the event. Those interested in participating should contact Barbie Simbeck, public relations chairperson at barbie.simbeck@yahoo.com. Simbeck can provide posters, ribbons and balloons to utilize in a purple display. Participants may also add their own personal touches to the display. Efforts began in October 2010 to plan the 2011 Relay for Life. This year, there are 27 teams, an increase from last year's 21 teams.