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Relay for Life: ‘Crush Cancer in Every Color’

Bleachers at Creston Community High School feature luminarias in the form of a message of hope during Creston's 2019 Relay for Life event in August in honor and memory of those who have survived, battled and died of cancer. This year, Relay for Life will be held 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at McKinley Lake.
Bleachers at Creston Community High School feature luminarias in the form of a message of hope during Creston's 2019 Relay for Life event in August in honor and memory of those who have survived, battled and died of cancer. This year, Relay for Life will be held 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at McKinley Lake.

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As the COVID-19 has brought many activities and gatherings to a screeching halt in recent months, organizers of Creston’s Relay for Life has decided to move forward with it’s annual event.

The event, which honors those who have been diagnosed or lost their lives to cancer, has been held annually for more than two decades in Creston, which has garnered more support for the mission of the American Cancer Society each year. The event has grown to include food, entertainment, vendors and a car show. Despite the presence of COVID-19 in Iowa, organizers felt it was important to continue the momentum it has gained and have altered the event to ensure the health and safety of its participants.

Relay for Life

This year, Creston’s Relay for Life event will be scaled back to a two hour event Aug. 1. A daylight drive through will be held 7:30 to 9 p.m. with a lighted luminary ceremony beginning at 9 p.m. The theme: Crush Cancer in Every Color.

Stephanie Ayers, who serves on the Relay for Life committee, said the luminaria ceremony has been the heart of the event in past years.

“It’s a night where everyone can light up a bag and let everyone know that they are they are remembering them and still honoring them,” said Ayers. “The whole thing is amazing.”

Those who have attended previous Relay for Life events are familiar with the powerful imagery created by hundreds of glowing bags featuring names and messages to survivors and those who have died due to cancer. This year, the lit up paper bags will line McKinley Lake, and participants are encouraged to drive by slowly to view them as they make the loop around the lake.

“It just gives you chills to watch it,” said Ayers.

This year social distancing is strongly advised. Ayers said participants are allowed to exit their vehicles, but they are encouraged to stay in their vehicles and not arrive in large groups.

Awareness and support

Ayers said the event is important to help continue building awareness for the services provided by the ACS and building financial support through participants fundraising efforts to better serve patients. In addition to funding cancer research, the society helps patients with expenses for lodging and travel as some choose to travel to Des Moines, Omaha or Iowa City for treatment.

There are many ways to show support for the ACS, but Ayers said one of the best ways is just helping spread the word about their services and directing patients to them. With privacy laws such as HIPAA, Ayers said it can be difficult to find people who may benefit directly from services and programs provided by the organization.

Ayers has been involved with Relay for life for a number of years, but said she became more active with the local committee to show her support for family and friends who have been afflicted with cancer.

“I feel needs to be supported. Some people just aren’t aware of how bad cancer can be, how quickly it can progress and how bad it can affect someone’s life. Everyone hears the word ‘cancer and think, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s awful,’ but not a lot of people understand what people with cancer have to go through. You may be diagnosed with stage one cancer, and think, ‘Oh, it’s just stage one,’ but sometimes stage one progresses so fast into stage four and it it can happen in a short amount of time,” said Ayers.

Ayers said the annual Relay for Life event is one of her most favorite local events.

“I love seeing the outcome of it because there are so many people that support it,” she said. “A lot of people support it whether they have been affected by (cancer) or not ... but a lot of people do understand what people (with cancer) go through.”

Ayers said she hopes the community becomes more involved.

“It is involved a lot, but I would like to see it grow,” she said.

How to participate

To form a Relay for Life fundraising team, go to www.relayforlife/southwestiowa. For questions, call Ayers at 641-202-4488 or Dawn Loudon at 641-202-0146.

Luminaria pick up and drop off events will be held 4 to 6 p.m. July 11, 18 and 25 at PCSB Bank, 501 W. Taylor St.

For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org. For more information about Relay for Life, visit www. relayforlife.org.

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